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By Tanner Fricke   A timeout is called at one of Western’s basketball games and 20 cheerleaders hit the floor, moving into a pyramid formation. The show is about to begin. “There is nothing I love more than being on the sidelines during a really close game and getting the crowd stoked for our team to win,” cheerleader Rachel McCrady said. To understand the ins and outs of life as a cheerleader, it’s helpful first to know why they cheer in the first place. “The main goal of the cheer team at Western is to support school athletics,” McCrady said. “We want to create a fun gameday experience that allows fans to enjoy attending games and being a part of the atmosphere of Western athletics.” Cheerleaders actively seek to involve the entire crowd throughout each event they attend. They are advocates of Western’s success.

“There is nothing I love more than being on the sidelines during a really close game and getting the crowd stoked for our team to win.”

Rachel McCrady, cheerleader

“We are one of the many ambassadors for the university,” cheerleader Gianna Hake said. “Our season consists of supporting various sports throughout fall and winter quarter and also other community events. We work closely with the athletic department, helping out wherever we are needed.” Cheerleaders have to be flexible with their time and energy. Preparation for a busy night involves a lot of practice. An average day of practice includes warming up, working out and practicing new stunts and pyramid formations. “[We end] practice with what we call ‘positives and encouragements’ which is basically a time to highlight what we did well at practice and a time to discuss what we need to work on,” cheerleader Hannah Schoenbein said.
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Western's cheerleaders act as ambassadors for the college, helping raise fan support. // Photo by October Yates
Cheerleaders use their time practicing stunts and working out often. However, it’s important to note the positives and encouragements Schoenbein mentioned. No team can operate with excellence without strong relationships and motivation from one another. Balancing academics, social life and athletics can be difficult for many college athletes, cheerleaders included. The heart of the sport keeps them coming back. “I have put my heart into this and that drives my passion every year that I come back. I truly enjoy every aspect as a student and athlete,” Hake said. “One of the driving factors that keeps me so invested is seeing my team grow. When you look back at the end of the season, it is certainly amazing to see how much the team has accomplished.” Schonbein said the cheerleading squad has created a camaraderie with not only her teammates, but also other members of Western’s athletic department.

“I have put my heart into this and that drives my passion every year that I come back. I truly enjoy every aspect as a student and athlete.”

Gianna Hake, cheerleader

“Being a cheerleader is important to me because I think that having an overall great experience in college includes being involved in your school,” Schoenbein said. “I love getting to know all of the people in athletics and I've met some of my best friends through the process.” Schoenbein has advice for people thinking about joining the cheer team. “We have a pre-tryout clinic that can help speculating students get acquainted with the program and meet the people on the team,” Schoenbein said. “It has been the most rewarding experience of my life and although I was nervous my first year, the work paid off. I am lucky to be on this team and I wouldn't trade the memories and opportunities I've had for the world.” The team encourages people to come check it out and give it a shot if they are thinking of it. “Every time I get with my team I feel like I am with family and I get to do what I love the most, which is cheer for Western Athletics. It’s tough at some points, but the work is so worth it.” McCrady said.

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