WAHS Cheerleading Is Raising Fans’ Spirits

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From top row, proceeding left to right: Head coach Chris Stutsman, Avi Cicilese, Morgan Newton, assistant coach Julie Stutsman. Tiffany Smith, Jackson Ursenbach, Belicia Gentry. Kaityln Graves, Erin Donnelly, Mc Kenzie Collins, Olivia Lepore.

When thinking of fall sports there’s one that many people tend to overlook: Cheerleading. However, spending hours upon hours planning and practicing the choreographed movements, dance-steps, acrobatics, chants and stunts that will eventually inspire fans to leap out of their seats and holler for the home team is not only hard work, it requires huge commitment.

According to Western Albemarle High School’s varsity sideline cheerleading coach, Christine Stutsman, many people assume that, because a cheer squad’s final routines are performed with polish, the sport is ‘easy’ or undemanding. But nothing could be further from the truth. “We start practicing regularly three weeks before the season begins,” she said. “And while in the end we want our routines to appear effortless, it takes many hours of practice to get them right. These girls and boys show huge dedication and drive, getting together day after day and working hard to create the final product that fans end up watching from the bleachers.”

Additionally, as there is only one cheer squad, the kids essentially put in overtime, performing at varsity football and basketball games, and other events as well. “Because our official season is so long and has only a short break in between, you have to really want to be here to stick it out,” explained Stutsman. “This isn’t something that you can just step into and think it’s going to be easy, or that it isn’t demanding. We’re at every game and practicing in between. And in the spring, we perform at school spirit and fundraising events too. It’s really tough. Only those who truly love cheering can keep up with the demands.”

As this year’s team was small, featuring only nine members, Stutsman says the group was able to focus more than usual on perfecting stunts and tricks. Working to nail down the elementary moves early on, they were able to advance to the more exciting stuff—like pyramids, hoists and aerial acrobatics. With the team including three juniors, five sophomores and a freshman—the unit’s lone male—Stutsman is thrilled by the team’s future prospects.

“The kids put in a huge amount of effort and have really shown devotion to getting things right,” she said. “They are really creative, love what they’re doing, support one another, and just all around have a lot of fun together. Because of that we had an awesome fall season. So I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year and beyond. With such a young team, I think we have a great opportunity to put together an even more amazing routine than we already have.”

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