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Cheering up Saturdays

A+WSU+cheerleader+performs+a+cheer+during+a+game+against+Wyoming+in+Martin+Stadium%2C+Sept.+19%2C+2015.
A WSU cheerleader performs a cheer during a game against Wyoming in Martin Stadium, Sept. 19, 2015.

A WSU cheerleader performs a cheer during a game against Wyoming in Martin Stadium, Sept. 19, 2015.

A WSU cheerleader performs a cheer during a game against Wyoming in Martin Stadium, Sept. 19, 2015.

CASIE MOE | Evergreen reporter

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The ‘trust fall’ that is used to build confidence and teamwork in the work environment pales in comparison to those in cheerleading.

The men throw woman upwards of 25 feet in the air. Other men are depended upon to catch them if they slip or fall. Sometimes the women have to help swing another teammate on top of them to complete a structure.

“It’s a lot of trust,” senior returning cheerleader Josh Hengesteg said. “It seems like blind trust, but through repetition and proper training and progression, nothing about it is dangerous. It teaches a lot of teamwork too.”

The Washington State Cheer Squad spends ample time preparing for home games under the guidance of cheer Head Coach Chris Opheim.

They practice every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 3-5 p.m.; their workouts continue with more cardio and weights for an hour after a short intermission.

The women work their core strength to remain balanced and as straight as possible when they need to stand on the palm of their partner’s hand. The men make sure to have strong legs to squat when throwing and catching.

“It’s more mental than anything, I think,” junior Ryan Yakubek said. “Once you get into it, it’s kind of just going over all of the stuff that you’ve ever learned and it’s making sure that you apply it and being proactive, thinking about things before you do it – because you do have someone’s life technically in your hands.”

The cheerleaders run through a variety of stunts, including baskets, where one girl is thrown high into the air and performs a series of twists, and pyramids requiring the participation of a larger group of cheerleaders to support more people.

These are the type of stunts that have made the cheer squad nationally-ranked.

“It’s very interesting that when people think Washington State, they don’t think that there is an outreach, that it is a national brand as much for things. We’re a national brand,” Opheim said.

People call in from as far away as Florida and North Carolina asking about the cheer squad. On the team itself, several people have transferred from other schools all over the country.

In the world of cheer, there has been a push for success in competition, said Opheim, and the WSU cheer squad have stepped up to the challenge.

Overall, though, the cheerleaders are training for the sidelines.

“I’m sideline oriented, which means I put a little more emphasis into what we do at games,” Opheim said. “And to how we get the crowd involved into the games and getting them loud at the right times, getting them to chant things that are supportive for our team versus negative or inappropriate. But it’s about creating the environment that makes a home field advantage is what I think of as cheerleading.”

The squad knows the importance of the sideline cheers and has a great time doing them for the fans.

“It’s a fun way to get involved and meet people, do different events and game days stuff is always really fun, especially football games. Those are my favorite,” senior Julia Colosimo said. “I like the game day atmosphere, getting up, seeing the fans, welcoming the football team, everything from countdown and the runout and cheering games and leading the Cougs onto victory.”

Colosimo is the only senior woman on the squad, and helps lead it in cheers like the favorite ‘Jaws’ cheer on third down. This opportunity to lead is part of what cheer gives to the individual.

“It helps build you as a person, and it definitely helps build your confidence and your personality,” junior Carli Pitcher said. “I think it’s a way for a lot of people to help them get out of their shells. It helps develop personality and people and skills further on in life.”

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Cheering up Saturdays