As a breathless freshman flung open the navy blue curtain separating cheerleading squad hopefuls from the main Palestra arena where they auditioned, the other students had one question for her: "How'd you do?" The atmosphere was all enthusiasm and anxiety for the 15 women and three men who kicked, jumped and danced for the junior varsity cheerleading squad tryouts last night. Eight women and as many men who can who meet the requirements will make the JV squad, which cheers at all home junior varsity football and basketball games. Tryouts for the Penn mascot were held during the same audition period. The first leg of the three-day cheerleading audition process began Tuesday. The cheerleading hopefuls learned some of the Penn squad's sideline cheers and talked about partner stunts. On Wednesday, the group met again with members of the varsity squad to practice tumbling and to actually try the stunts they nervously watched cheerleaders demonstrate with seemingly little effort. The students' work culminated last night, when they were asked to perform either a dance that the squad choreographed or a sideline cheer, a jump and partner stunts. When trying out, the students must have crisp movements and polished technique, and show tremendous excitement, according to College and Engineering senior Chip Keener, who is one of the varsity co-captains. But for many of the women trying out, acting enthusiastic came easily. "When I got here I thought, 'I can't believe I'm trying out for college cheerleading,' " College freshman Elisia Abrams said. "It's so much bigger than in high school. There I was in the middle of the Palestra -- it was huge." Students also had to get accustomed to the high level of athletic skill that college cheerleading requires. Because most high school squads only consist of girls, most of the students trying out had never performed coed stunts. While College freshman Yael Aufgang said she felt scared at first, she soon became more secure performing the stunts. "I feel more comfortable with one guy than with four girls," said Aufgang, who had only performed stunts with girls until yesterday. "Especially since the guys are on varsity and have been doing this for a few years. "It's really fun, but it's still a little scary," she added. For the male cheerleaders, whose duties include lifting the women and throwing them in the air, performing stunts can also be a tense experience. Wharton freshman Bill Redeker -- who has never cheered before -- said he did not realize how complicated the stunts are. "I am more bruised and scratched than I ever was after playing football as a kid," Redeker said. "Stunts require a lot of strength to get the girls in the air. "Cheerleading also requires coordination to do the sidelines, in a way that a lot of guys aren't adept at doing," he added. While cheerleading takes hours of practice, Wharton senior Rick Miller -- who landed the role of mascot for the fourth semester in a row -- said that getting the crowd involved comes naturally to him. When trying out, Miller said that he had three minutes to show what he would do during games as the mascot. "There's not a lot of pressure," Miller said. "All you have to do is act like a clown. So, if you mess up, it's even better." But after three semesters as mascot, Miller said he has learned a few tricks to get the crowd involved if it is not as responsive as he would like. "Sometimes I throw candy out," Miller said. "They always like that, and once you get them on their feet they get excited and into the game." When the crowd does get enthusiastic, Miller said he feels truly exhilarated. "Being the mascot is a feeling -- it doesn't come from a thought process that was logically brought about," Miller said. "It's a 180-degree turn from what I do in Wharton. It lets me experience my primal side."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.