It’s tougher for a team like Bethel’s to pull off the acrobatic stunts that count in a cheerleading competition. Most teams with enough people on the roster have several girls capable of being "flyers". Those are the people thrown up and lifted into the air to stand on a shoulder, balanced on one or both feet.
With only seven on the squad, Coach Pam Conrad has to be creative about making up routines because one flyer usually requires three people to support them safely for most stunts.
“We were actually really fortunate. We had two kids that could fly this year, and we had two girls that actually based like they were boys.”
“We have to learn all these skills and make it look easy,” team captain Tierney McCormick says. “If we are not getting along our stunts are not going to go up, and it’s hard to get everyone up at the same time because you have to time it right. It’s not just about getting it up.”
This year the team has a guy in the roster: Avery Hoffman. He is a member of the champion wrestling team and capable of holding flyers high and steady. During the state competition, one of those things occurred that no one wants to see when supporting a friend above their head. Lakeisha McCann was up there when she lost her balance.
“Today I fell out of stunt in competition,” McCann recounts, “but Avery, Avery, Avery; I have never seen someone flip so fast to catch me. It almost looked like he meant to do it. Like, he turned around so fast. He’s like, 'she’s not going to hit the floor today'", she said laughing.
“No one hits the floor on my watch,” said Hoffman.” Make sure of that one.”
Hoffman is not the only boy in a cheerleading squad at State, but he was the only boy at the state basketball tournament last week who after cheering with the Bethel Warrior girls, ran off to change into his basketball togs and warm up to play in the boys basketball tournament.
At halftime, the girls took center court to entertain the crowd. That’s when things went totally off script for Bethel cheerleader Sidney Grey.
“I thought we were doing the beat,” she said, but Grey’s teammates had other plans.
They were performing their routine until Avery showed up in his game clothes with a homemade poster, a dozen red roses, and chocolates to ask Grey to the prom. The only one who didn't know about the surprise was Grey herself.
“I was really confused. I don’t know. It was just really unexpected, but we’ve been dating," said Grey.
Avery went to work in the second half, sinking a three pointer while the tiny squad cheered from the sidelines knowing that this would be their last year together. Most are seniors, and after graduation the squad will be down to two. Grey, a sophomore, is one of them and she knows that she and junior Rylee Johnson have some serious work to do if Bethel’s cheerleading squad is going to exist next year.
“Trying to recruit a lot more people,” says Grey. ”Just going to be really hard teaching new people all the technique we have to have.”