by Dezmond Remington
The Cal Poly Humboldt Cheer team is a club team, both traveling to compete in cheer competitions and cheering at sports events on campus. Co-captain Kristi Hernandez has been with the team for three years, and competes as a main base. She’s been cheering since she was 12 years old, and says the best part is definitely the sense of competition.
“It’s hard. You’re really nervous because you know your parents, your friends, your family, the other team you’re competing against, [they’re] probably watching you,” Hernandez said. “And the minute you step on the stage, for me, I completely forget there’s an audience. I zone out, and the only thing that’s on the mat are me, my team, and the judges. You don’t really see anything offstage either because of how bright the lights are. It’s a two minute and 30 second routine… it feels like a second, it happens so fast.”
And it is the team that keeps the experience fun and morale high. Hernandez said her favorite memory was at a cheer camp over the summer, where they practiced with squads from other schools that are much larger than Humboldt’s squad of ten. At the end of the camp, they managed to perform just as well as the larger schools.
“I was just really proud of everybody because I knew all of us went home with bruises and a lot of happiness and a lot of jokes,” Hernandez said. “A lot of everything. It was great.”
Freshman flyer Jaellian Waite-Kerns feels similarly. She started cheering in seventh grade after her mother, who also cheered, introduced her to it, and she fell in love with the sport instantly.
“[My favorite part] is that teammate camaraderie, just the way the team interacts,” Waite-Kerns said. “It’s very different from team to team. No two teams are the same. Every year, it’s a completely different social structure. It’s always really great. Even if everyone is against you, you always have like ten people in your corner.”
One of the most important aspects of cheering is the fact that it’s performative and subjective, but when on the sidelines the goal is oftentimes to raise people’s spirits when the team is losing.
“It feels dope to be a cheerleader and know you’re still lifting up people’s spirits and whatnot,” Waite-Kerns said. “Even if someone’s losing, it’s still lit because you’re still happy and it helps other people.”
Cheer is not without its detractors, who argue that it isn’t a sport. Many of the athletes on the cheer team have strong opinions about this.
“There’s so much conditioning we do and working out and the time it takes to even build a routine and having to hit a stunt– whatever the routine is, you have to hit it and its consistency,” Hernandez said. “We do the same thing a lot of sports do for conditioning: a lot of weightlifting, a lot of running, a lot of getting used to using our bodies [quickly], lifting things– well, people in this case. I mean, we work out just as hard as you guys do. And if you don’t believe it, you should probably consider practice.”