The Raptor Rundown


Zoe Klein, Copy Editor

I lagged about a half a beat behind the cheer team for the entire week — as someone who can’t tell my left from my right, contorting my body into the right shape at the right time was a bit of a challenge. But I did learn that I could do the splits.

As I pulled my sneakers on in the newspaper room ten minutes before practice started, I questioned my offer to join cheer for the week. I did ballet when I was four, but that was about the extent of my dance knowledge. When I walked into the cheer room, the cheer captains were taping a large poster of a frog to the wall. “Don’t tell coach,” one muttered. “Let’s see how long it takes her to notice.” 

The schedule for practice remained similar to that of the first one I attended. We all crowded together at the beginning of practice for an unofficial team therapy session that lasted approximately until Coach Alvarado arrived. When she arrived, senior and team captain Zoe Dell led everyone in stretching.

The floor began to pulse to the beat of Taylor Swift, and the team slid into two lines. With each change of song, it seemed like another corner of tape attached to the frog poster had unstuck itself from the wall. The coach absentmindedly re-stuck it each time, yielding giggles from the freshmen in the back row.

At the end of stretching, the girl next to me slipped into the splits. Without any goal or expectation, I did the same. It took me a moment to realize what my body had done. I was in the splits. I didn’t know I could do that. 

After stretching, the coach pointed at junior and team captain Lola Galindo-Deleon and said the word “Supercharged.” I was a little bit scared at first, and quickly became more scared when I learned that “Supercharged” was a dance that I was going to need to learn by the end of the week. We repeated small sections of the dance until the captains and coach deemed it flawless.

After “Supercharged,” the captains sent the freshmen to retrieve the stunting mat, which they dutifully unrolled down the center of the room.

Because I am a newspaper kid and not a cheerleader (i.e., I have not been training to be thrown in the air for months), I wasn’t cleared to stunt. I spent most of the week upside down instead. On the first day, the coach and captains had decided that while the team was doing things that I either wasn’t cleared to do or didn’t know how to do, I would be cartwheeling. I did a lot of cartwheeling. 

I learned this week that the fear that comes with stunting (throwing people in the air) is not limited solely to the flyer (the one in the air). It may have been the worry about people near me breaking their bones, but it also could have been dread of the 20 pushups the entire team was required to do if someone touched the ground. I am extremely buff now. 

After the experienced cheerleaders finished throwing each other in the air, the captains tortured us. They sent us into wall sits and hip flexor exercises, which turned out to be a recipe for hip cramps (which, I learned this week, are possible). 

Game day was a whole new experience. The coach ordered us meals that wouldn’t make our bodies cramp, and we “supercharged” and threw one another in the air again. An hour before the game, the team crowded onto a bus to go to the field. 

When we arrived, the football team was throwing their legs in the air with the intent of loosening their muscles before running into each other at increasing forces and speeds throughout the game. Naturally, the cheer team joined them. We threw our legs higher in the air and with more speed than they did. They were not amused.  

For the first time this season, the Raptors football team won. While we were on the field, the cheer team behaved. We held our hands behind our backs, and stuck and smeared every cheer with calculation. But when halftime hit and we looked at the scoreboard, we ran into the student section and joined in on the laughter and celebration of the student body. My childhood dream of becoming a cheerleader and my somewhat uncharacteristic love of football were not mutually exclusive anymore. And I could do the splits.