Man up!

Junior Bryan Fajardo cheers on the huskies during the spring football game against Lake Mary on May 19. The team fell to the rams 56-21.

photo by Valerie Drewry

Junior Bryan Fajardo cheers on the huskies during the spring football game against Lake Mary on May 19. The team fell to the rams 56-21.

Powderpuff cheerleading: awkward, manly guys trying to morph into the stereotypical vision of a high school cheerleader.

This is exactly what junior Bryan Fajardo was thinking when he joined the junior powderpuff cheer team for a laugh. But as he cheered on the junior girls playing flag football and led his fellow cheerleaders, the fun became something serious. Fajardo fell in love with the sport, and wondered what it would really be like to cheer for the school team. Scared to face judgement, Fajardo was indecisive about trying out, but he did, and he made the 2017-18 varsity team.

Tryouts for the new season were April 24-28 and all athletes found out team placement on the 28. The first two days of tryouts, athletes learned their material which consisted of a cheer, fight song and dance. This was followed by a mock tryout, and finished up with the actual tryout on the last day. Fajardo tried out with coed stunting instead of the female tryout to showcase his skills.  His work on the junior powderpuff cheer team gave him a little bit of an idea what to expect.

“I realized when I was throwing around all these guys I could do the same with girls with no problem,” Fajardo said.

He never thought about cheering until the opportunity was brought up to him by junior Savannah Hobbs. Fajardo was going to try out with a friend, but the friend bailed, causing Fajardo to be indecisive about trying out by himself.

This is the first year the cheer program has ever had a male member. Coach Kim Barlowe is on board with the idea, saying that she loves how he does not care what others think; previous varsity members also support Fajardo’s decision.

“When he was at the tryout meeting, we all thought it was a joke. Usually the guys that were on Powderpuff make fun of cheer,” junior Courtney O’Dea said. “But when [Fajardo] was learning how to stunt at the try out clinics, he was very serious about it and I could tell he had a lot of interest.”

Barlowe has been the head coach of the school’s cheerleading program for 11 years and has decided to resign this year due to personal reasons. Her love for the sport and athletes will not be affected; in fact, Fajardo has sparked new found interest for the team by Barlowe and she is excited to see how everything plays out.

Having a male cheerleader on the team for the first time in 11 years may cause some team chemistry issues, but Fajardo’s outgoing and inviting personality has kept him from any difficulties. Senior Ashley Leubscher, who was on the team in previous years, was Fajardo’s stunt partner as he began to learn and experienced this positivity first hand.

“The team loves him as far as I know,” Leubscher said. “They all have a blast at practices together.”

Fajardo came into this sport with no legitimate knowledge about what to do, but he quickly picked up on stunting skills such as a walk in to hands, chair sits and back spotting techniques. He plans to participate in all games but will not be on the competition team due to required change of division that the team has successfully been in.

“People have this weird perception that I do everything the girl cheerleaders do and that is not true at all,” Fajardo said.

The spring game was on May 19, a 56-21 loss to Lake Mary. Despite the loss, Fajardo and the team cheered on the football team and the squad was excited to have, as Barlowe calls him, a “hype man”.              Excited for the rest of the season, Fajardo posted on the team Facebook page post-spring game.

Tryouts for upcoming freshmen are May 30 to June 1 and Fajardo is excited to meet the rest of the program.

“I am having the time of my life right now,” Fajardo said. “I am really glad I decided to do it, I have no regrets.”