IRHS cheerleaders passionate for new era

In an attempt to build a cheerleading program at Indian River High School, second-year head coach Christina Johnson and 13 of her cheerleaders recently attended a clinic at Salisbury University. It’s Johnson’s belief that the Indian River cheerleading program needs to update its routine and that the Salisbury University clinic was an initial step to achieving their ultimate goal.

“Over the years, the [Indian River cheerleading] program has lost touch with what everyone else is doing,” said Johnson, an IRHS alumnus. “And I have the privilege of rebuilding this program.”

Johnson noted that the sport has changed dramatically since she graduated in 1992.

“When I was a cheerleader [at Indian River], we would do shoulder sits or maybe a shoulder stand and a pyramid, whereas now [today’s cheerleaders are] doing basket tosses and single extended leg stunts,” Johnson said. “The sport of cheerleading has changed drastically.”

And, to accommodate a more sophisticated routine this year, Johnson is attending a safety certification course offered through the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (ACCA) tomorrow, which is designed to enable her to properly teach and supervise more advanced maneuvers.

Admittedly, Indian River’s cheerleading squad has many levels of ability, ranging from novice to experienced, according to Johnson. But what is encouraging for her is that the two groups are willing to learn and help each other achieve solidarity.

“This year, I’m in a unique situation where some girls have never cheered and some are All Stars,” she said. “We have every spectrum.”

“But just recently, I was able watch 13 teenagers become one team,” she said of their attendance at the SU cheerleading clinic. “And what’s really encouraging is that the more experienced are willing to teach the less experienced.”

“They’re ready to go,” she added.

Six of the 13 girls that attended the Salisbury University cheerleading clinic were nominated as All-Americans and of that group, three were selected. And, as All-Americans, sophomores Alyssa Murray and Georgie Hattier and freshman Veronica Townsend are invited to participate in the halftime festivities at either the National Football League Pro Bowl or the Citrus Bowl, which is a major college football bowl game and will serve as a major building block for the program’s new direction.

Cheerleaders nominated were judged on an individual routine consisting of crowd involvement, jumps, tumbling and cheer movements.

Johnson’s squad will attend another clinic at the end of August and is tentatively working to host their own in the future. Currently, Johnson has 21 cheerleaders penciled in for the fall football season. And, in addition to cheering for the varsity football team – which will has seven home football games this season – the cheerleading squad will also cheer at three home junior varsity football games as well.

But before the season kicks off in earnest, the cheerleading squad needs to raise money for their uniforms. They’re holding a car wash at the Bethany Beach fire hall on Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. until whenever the cars stop rolling in.