The days of cheerleaders standing on the sidelines yelling "Give Me a 'J!'" have given way to athletes who do much more than try to infuse the student body with school spirit.
Instead, today's cheerleaders are talented tumblers and jumpers who spend as much time in the gym or on the field as the high school teams they support.
"Cheerleading is absolutely a sport," JDHS football cheer coach Carlene Nore said. "They need to be fit and conditioned, primarily in pre-season we want to get them in shape and used to doing it."
Along with their strength and conditioning regimens, Juneau's cheerleaders will have more than 80 cheers to memorize, each with different foot and hand movements, as fans don't like to be lulled to sleep.
"People don't know how hard this is," returning football cheer captain Colby Nore said. "We condition a lot. Jumping is hard, it is a lot more than what people see during a game."
And, they put in more hours on game day than just the three or so from the varsity kickoff to the final whistle. Take this example: for the Aug. 7 season-opening football games, the Crimson Bears' cheer squad will be at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park at 3:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the junior varsity game, and stay until at least 10 p.m.
Nore, a junior graduating early, started cheering at age six, and is now in her third high school cheer season. She was part of the Bears' state championship cheer team last season.
"[Cheerleading] is really exciting because you get to pump up all the fans," Nore said "And I like to dance so the two just combined."
Nore and freshman teammate Jessica Sjoroos were also part of the Alaska Elite cheer team, made up of JDHS and TMHS members, that captured a championship in the national open division competition in Las Vegas this May.
Said Nore, "It was more exciting to compete in a real cheer competition down south against 40 other teams from different states. It would be cool to cheer at college or choreograph or even coach a team."
Sjoroos, the daughter of JDHS football coach Rich Sjoroos, was invited to the Elite squad while in seventh and eighth grade and has also cheered since age six.
"I always went to dad's games and watched the Bears' stuff," Sjoroos said. "I always wanted to be a Bears' cheerleader and now I am finally that age. My dad said I couldn't play football, so I became a cheerleader."
Contact Klas Stolpe at email@example.com.
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