Cheering embodies ultimate athleticism

January 2, 2013

By Michele Mihalovich

By Michele Mihalovich
A pack of Mount Si cheerleaders hold up flyer Miranda Gillespie during a Dec. 18 practice. The girls are practicing for upcoming competitions, which include nationals at Orlando, Fla.

Anyone who doesn’t think cheerleading is a demanding, athletic sport, has obviously not watched their three-hour practice sessions, or seen cheerleaders compete.

“People may have that impression because they’re only watching them cheer at games,” Mount Si High School assistant coach Travis Anderson said.

Cheerleaders are limited to what they can do on the sides of football fields, basketball courts and wrestling mats.

But at competitions, cheerleaders tumble, flip and lift others 20 feet in the air.

“Cheerleading is a combination of gymnastics, dance and acrobatics,” Anderson said. “This is ultimate athleticism that incorporates cardio, strength and flexibility. Plus, there’s the performance aspect of it. Other athletes aren’t being judged on whether they’re smiling or not.”

Anamika Gilbert, a freshman Wildcat cheerleader, said she watched an ESPN cheerleading competition when she was in seventh grade and knew cheerleading was going to be part of her high school career.

And so she started training.

Today, Gilbert said she runs two miles a day.

“Before cheerleading, I was lucky if I ran one mile a month,” she said.

On days when the squad isn’t practicing, Gilbert is in the gym doing pull-ups, cardio and leg workouts, and lifting 95 pounds.

“Cheerleading works every muscle in your body,” she said.

A concussion has temporarily sidelined Gilbert, but she’s anxious to get back on the floor, where she serves as the “base” — the cheerleader who helps launch the “flyer” into the air.

“I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” she said. “Throwing someone 20 feet into the air makes you really feel good about yourself.”

Miranda Gillespie, a senior, is one of the “flyers,” the girl getting tossed 20 feet in the air.

She also loves her role, but admits that trusting the girls on the base develops over time.

It helps, Gillespie said, that she has no fear of heights.

“Some girls are terrified to be up there — but it doesn’t bother me at all,” she said.

The cheerleaders, in addition to getting athletically fit, also need to balance cheering at Wildcat games with learning routines, attending camps and practicing for competitions — as well as competing.

Basketball and wresting are in full swing right now, but cheer coach Jessii Stevens said cheerleading competitions are also heating up about the same time.

The team competed a week before Thanksgiving, twice in December, and are looking at weekly competition in January, including at state Jan. 26. The first two weeks in February are also reserved for competitions, which includes the national competition in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 7.

It’s not enough to just learn the competition routines.

At a Dec. 18 practice, Stevens called out, “Your movements have to have energy — skills are not enough. You have to smile when you’re performing, and the judges and the audience need to see that you’re enjoying yourselves and having fun.”

She said getting all the girls in sync takes a lot of time and practice.

“That’s why it’s so important that they are practicing here, and at home,” Stevens said. “We’ve already competed several times and we’re still working on trying to look like were one fluid body.”


Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or

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