Mariner cheer captains junior Emily Arno and freshman Riley Doughty bring a combination of experience and can-do spirit to the squad. The one thing they are not are stereotypical prissy cheerleaders, but rather athletes who support other athletes.
For one, their workouts are intense, said head football cheer coach Kelly Jo Ivone. Each practice requires the girls to do cardio, a number of ab exercises from crunches to pike-ups, all of their jumps three times, and all of their kicks.
“They run every practice, whether it be track or the stairs. They do abletics, which is to get their core stronger,” Ivone said. “There’s a huge theory among people cheer’s not a sport. It’s very much a sport. It is actually quite challenging and they actually have to be fit and work on it. We do a lot for core structure. A lot for cardio and endurance. Believe it or not it takes a lot to be able to yell for an entire game and cheer and jump and dance. It takes quite a bit out of you.”
While the football cheer team currently does not compete in competitions, the desire to do so is there. However logistics with the competition season, which overlaps with basketball cheer, have been prohibitive.
“We’d like to go to competition, but there’s a bit of a conflict for when it is because of basketball cheer,” Ivone said. “They’re very much two separate teams; separate coaches. Same goal — cheer for our school — but separate. It’s the same for both and it happens during basketball season and some of the girls do both (teams) so there’s a conflict.”
Once the team, mostly comprised of freshman or upperclassman who are new to cheer, improves their skills, attendees to football games can expect to see girls thrown into the air among their set of tricks, Ivone said. Arno is looking forward to bringing the team to that point as well.
“I’m really looking forward to just growing with this whole new team because we’re all pretty new. They’re doing amazing. I’m really excited to see the end of the season how much progress they’ve made,” Arno said. “They’re learning everything super quickly. We’ve been able to manage getting down most of our cheers so far.”
Ivone arranged the captains by choosing one herself and then letting the team vote for their choice of captain as well. Ivone chose Arno, who has been on the squad since she was a freshman. Doughty, the team’s choice, has one year of Pop Warner cheer under her belt but is quickly learning to be a leader for the entire team. Doughty’s older sister Kya, who graduated from Homer High School in spring 2016, was a cheer captain in the 2015-16 school year.
“It’s really hard being a captain as a freshman since I wasn’t a part of the cheer squad last year. I didn’t have someone to captain me first,” Doughty said. “I’ve never been captain before and I don’t know the responsibilities, but I’ve been working hard for it.”