No fear with cheer

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, October 18, 2017
It’s almost a completely different cheer leading squad leading the way in 2017, with eight varsity members and five brand new members on JV.

Co-Captains Jackie McMichael and Paige Crees share the leadership role for the young squad this year, joined by fellow senior Briana Lozano.

The varsity squad also includes Lyvia Rock, Maria Lozano, Airam Quiroz, Mickayla Pace and new comer Laura Garcia.

“This year we learned eight new chants at cheer camp that we attended in August,” said Cheer Coach Gretchen Nollman. “The fans have seemed to enjoy them.”

Every Friday the squad could be seen down on the sidelines, getting the fans into the game no matter how the Comets were performing on the field.

But, cheer leading goes beyond psyching up crowds in West Liberty. It’s about the individual

“The role of cheerleading in high school is to be the voice and spirit on and off the field, court and mat,” says Coach Nollman.

“I hold every cheer member to a high bar,” she adds. “I can see what their potential is from the first time meeting them, and it’s my job as a coach to help and lead them there.”

This year on the JV squad are five new members, four girls and one guy, none of whom have ever tried cheer leading before.

Their names include Cameron Wertzbaugher, Jessica Stepanek, Natalie Schmidt, Madison Kleier and Jessica Bautista.

“We had a guy last year, Kane Newsom, on the squad, so it is nice that another guy has decided to join,” says Nollman. “Cameron Wertzbaugher brings a loud voice to the JV squad, as well as his passion for being a Comet fan.”

All these new members may be a testament to how popular cheer leading has become at West Liberty High School. That has something to do with Coach Nollman pushing her performers.

You see, while the squad helps get the audience into the game every week, she sees this as an opportunity to make each one of her performers better as individuals.

In fact, for the last three years Nollman has taken students to the Iowa Cheer Honor Squad to perform in the State Football 1A and 2A games halftime performance.

“It has been a great experience to see the cheer members I have taken enjoy themselves, learn new routines, meet other fellow cheer members form across Iowa, as well as be honored by the Iowa High school Athletic Association with a medal and certificate,” she says.

There’s a lot that goes into the daily life of the squad.

Observers may think that stunting during the football game or in competition is just a simple lift, but there is more that goes into it than that.

According to Nollman doing stunts takes seriousness and dedication from everyone involved.

“I make the entire cheer squad do weightlifting throughout the summer, two to three times a week and continue once school starts two times a week,” she says.

“I require lifting as a squad so that they are always working the same muscles that they would when punching out the sharp motions while cheering or same muscles used when stunting in their groups,” she adds.

And so, cheer leaders sit in this odd dimension between athletes and performers. The school considers it an activity within the school rules, not a sport.

Yet, each cheer member is required to have a sports physical and concussion form filed with the coach and the school office before being able to participate.

It can be dangerous what they do, but at the same time rewarding. So, the next time you see them in action give them a ‘Go Comets!’
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