By J1 Reporters Susana Pettis & Natalie Plewa
By the time the girl jumps into her stunt, she’s a bit of a mess.
Her hair is crazy, scattered over her bow. Her makeup is smearing as sweat drips down her face. Her cheers sound scratchy from yelling and you can tell she’s out of breath by the waver in her voice.
This is the part of cheer that not many people see. They can see the crisp uniforms, the ear-to-ear smiles, and the acrobatic tumbling, but the life of a cheerleader isn’t always as peppy and perfect as it seems. It’s hard work. Lifting a girl and throwing her around takes coordination and strength. Cheering at a volleyball game that lasts two hours takes stamina and the ability to keep your spirit up. Just a few examples of how everything isn’t always what it seems.
“Nobody touches the ground!” yells Allie Clark. The safety of every flyer depends on her ability to instruct the team with an equal mix of encouragement and intimidation. Her second year of coaching at Marian has brought new relationships, and a new loyalty to the Crusaders. As an alum and former cheerleader of Gross High School, Clark was just as nervous as the antsy group of girls.
“Honestly, like the girls said, they were scared when I came in the first day, but I was just as scared,” Clark said.
In the last few years, Marian Cheer has added stunting to their list of accomplishments. The girls are taught new skills during the summer, then come back to school with a full routine, which includes a stunt sequence and a pyramid. Before stunting became a phenomenon, Marian cheerleaders were known to make appearances at volleyball and basketball games, just like the current ones do. The girls also cheered for Creighton Prep and what was previously Rummel High. Now, Rummel High has become Roncalli, a co-ed school with their own cheerleaders, and Marian cheerleaders primarily cheer for Mount Michael.
In its first few years, the Marian cheerleaders were led by former art teacher Kathy McPherson. There was a Varsity and Junior Varsity team and together, they had about 20 girls. Forty-five years later, there are once again two squads, but together there are about 35 girls.
The program seems to be growing every year and Clark hopes that soon enough, Marian will be one of the best in the state.
“I see the girls being leaders in the state in stunting and being a good example to the state that stunting should be allowed,” Clark said.
The idea of stunting came to be in 2012 when John Yenny, a coach at Elite Cheer, took on the coaching position at Marian. This made Marian unique because it continues to be one of the few schools in Nebraska that hasn’t become ground bound. This law came to be because a cheerleader at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln landed on her back while tumbling, leaving her temporarily paralyzed with a broken neck. This happened in 1996, but several years later it resulted in a $2.1 million dollar settlement.
Ultimately, all pyramids and stunts were banned and cheerleading became nothing but cheering on the sidelines. These rules are still enforced and most Nebraska high schools have followed suit. For this reason, Marian girls can only stunt at home games in the Marian gym, or if they perform their routine at football games, but only with a coach or athletic trainer present.
As the cheerleaders gain more experience, they could soon be a force to be reckoned with. Expectations seem to get higher and higher as they continue growing in numbers and as a team. Marian cheer seems to be going nowhere but up, literally.