No summer siesta for Mustang Cheerleaders

The sun was blazing, the bees were buzzing, but members of Redmond High School (RHS) Cheer weren’t taking a siesta.

The sun was blazing, the bees were buzzing, but members of Redmond High School (RHS) Cheer weren’t taking a siesta.

Out on the field at Walter L. Seabloom Stadium, they were stomping, stunting and sweating through a four-hour practice on the afternoon of July 8.

This year’s squad is 29 members strong — 26 girls and three guys. They’ve grown in numbers and in determination. Last spring’s crowning achievement for the Mustang cheerleaders, a first-place win at the Washington State Cheer Coaches Association tournament, was just a warm-up, vowed Coach Ronda Thomas.

“We hope to repeat that this year and also go to a national competition,” she said. And beyond that, “We wanna put more butts in the seats at Redmond High School games, make a difference on the sidelines and also be much more involved in the Redmond community,” starting with last weekend’s presence at Derby Days.

Co-captains Brittany Polk and Hannah Mahdieh, both returning for their third year on the squad, said some of the cheerleaders are teaching younger kids through City of Redmond camps this summer, some have helped with reading programs at Horace Mann Elementary and throughout the 2008-09 school year, they expect to participate in at least two or three philanthropic activities per month, as well as firing up crowds at both varsity and junior varsity sports events.

In ways large and small, the team is out to shatter stereotypes — and there’s no shortage of those.

How about, “Cheerleaders are airheads?” Thomas said most of the ‘Stangs cheerleaders have an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

Or the belief that “cheerleaders lead charmed lives — everything comes easy to them?” Thomas scoffed, “These kids come from a wide range of family situations, it’s not all Beaver Cleaver, perfect mom and dad.” Some are living with extended family members, facing personal hardships,” she said.

Then there’s the “mean cheerleader” stereotype, perpetuated by movies like “Bring it On.”

To counteract that image, “Last year we had a Fan Appreciation Week, handing out muffins or doughnuts to the student body and we had a Fan of the Game. Ronda picked someone out of the crowd who was the most supportive and they got a t-shirt and treat,” said Polk.

And exactly why have male cheerleaders seemed like a novelty, when collegiate squads typically include young men?

Thomas was thrilled that the two new guys on the team, senior Dan Samuelsson and junior Nick Bailey didn’t have to be “recruited,” but approached the team themselves, after now-junior Cody Nielsen tore down that myth last school year.

Now it’s all about focusing on being the best they can be, as athletes and as people, Thomas reminded them.

At an invitation-only camp in June, they learned eight new pyramids, new stunts and dismounts and now they’re pushing themselves to keep things “tight and coordinated,” said Mahdieh.

A MySpace account keeps the team members in touch when they’re not at practice, but there’s also a parent-launched Web site for the community,