ROCHELLE — When the Rochelle Junior Tackle football players are battling their opponents on the gridiron, the cheerleaders are always on the sideline keeping fans involved and raising Rochelle football spirit through chants and routines.
Over 40 cheerleaders will dress for the 2019 season, with each grade level (fifth through eighth) rostering roughly 10-to-12 cheerleaders. The teams have been practicing since June, and cheer coordinator Mychaela Hurst is looking forward to her first season leading the cheer program.
“I have enjoyed working with the girls again and being able to work with Lisa Sutton to show me how to take over the program and learn some new life skills,” Hurst said. “At first, I was hesitant to take over the program when Lisa and Kate [Friestad] asked me last year, but after working with the girls at Rochelle Middle School, I decided to give it a try.”
The cheerleaders practice 2-to-3 times each week learning about 50 chants for the football season. Several current and former Rochelle Township High School cheerleaders including Hurst, Lydia Ankney (eighth grade), Macey Ryan, Allison Kalata, Olivia Ramos (seventh grade), Cristina Alfano, Maggie Williams (sixth grade), Grace Orlikowski, Teigan Young, Schuyler Podolski and Megan Thompson (fifth grade) are working with the teams, teaching them stunts, proper technique, motions and jumps.
“I think it’s important for the high school girls to give back to the program that helped them become the athletes they are today,” Hurst said. “The girls need to start somewhere and I think the RJT program is an amazing way to introduce how to safely cheer and perform in front of crowds. It’s important for the girls to feel confident in themselves and it’s truly amazing to see these girls come out of their shells.”
While many cheerleaders continue on at the high school, many are also currently cheering at the middle school level. Hundreds of fans arrive at Helms Park for football games during the season, and Hurst said the cheer program helps girls prepare for the crowd sizes seen at both middle school and high school events.
“It keeps the girls on their toes,” Hurst said. “The program also helps so the girls don’t go into school cheerleading surprised as to all the rules and techniques that are expected of them.”