Rally rescue

When sophomore Sophie Whitehead arrived to watch the Homecoming pep rally, she had no idea she’d be called to participate


Sydney Wong

Sophomore Sophie Whitehead [left] came to the rescue of the varsity cheer squad last Friday during the homecoming pep rally junior Christine Schmidt injured her foot before the squad’s performance.

Hannah Ortega, Lead Reporter

Thump. Thump.

The seconds were ticking down until sophomore Sophie Whitehead had to lift up a random girl in a complicated stunt that could end horribly if she messed up.

Thump thump. Thump thump.

Her heart pounded nervously as she watched the cheerleaders perform their dance, and she began to worry about remembering all of the stunt routine, she said later.

Thump thump thump thump.

It was time. The cheer team took to their stunt formations, and Sophie rushed onto the mat.

Sophie was just another student in the crowd there to watch the homecoming pep rally before she became part of the performance. She had flowed into the gym in a never-ending, noisy river of students and had taken her place in the stands, like everyone else. The blaring of the trumpets and the beating of the drums collided with the rustling of poms poms and shouts from the mouths of the cheerleaders as Sophie sat, waiting for the rally to officially start.

But then she heard a voice.

“Sophie, come here!”

Sophie’s sister and varsity cheerleader Olivia Whitehead was rushing up the stands to her. Olivia hurriedly explained that junior Christine Schmidt had injured her foot that morning, and they needed a base for a stunt.

Sophie was the perfect candidate to fill in last minute because she was a school cheerleader during her freshman year, and she currently participates in competitive cheer outside of school. The world of high ponytails and elaborate flips was not foreign to her in that moment.

After agreeing to be a base, Olivia whisked her away to the auxiliary gym. As Sophie left the gym she saw the cheerleaders quickly rolling up their blue mats on the court.

“We’re off schedule, so the Majestics will perform first,” varsity cheer coach Jennifer Leary said into the microphone.

No one knew why there had been a sudden change, but Sophie did—the cheerleaders needed to buy some time. The Majestics stepped forward to perform, though they were caught off-guard by the announcement.

In the auxiliary gym, the complex routine and slight anxiety of the cheer team crashed onto Sophie like a wave, but she easily picked up the routine, as she’d done things like this many times before.  

She learned the counts as well as the order of the stunts in a matter of minutes. Sophie said later that she thought her flyer was probably nervous to be lifted by her, as the flyer didn’t know her. But after practicing it a few times Sophie said she thought her flyer probably felt better about it.

Then, all too quickly, applause erupted for the Majestics, and the cheerleaders were out of time.

The team rushed back to the pep rally, rolled out the mats, and took their places to perform. The beat kicked in and the cheerleaders hit each of their dance moves with precision while Sophie waited for her cue at the back. When the cheerleaders’ dance came to a close, she ran out to help with the stunt.

The next thing Sophie knew, one of the flyer’s feet was in her hands and her hands were hoisting the flyer up into the air. Her hands and arms trembled slightly as she worked to hold the flyer steady. The thought “I can’t let the team down” rushed into her head and she didn’t want to mess up, Sophie said later. The fate of the stunt and of this flyer was in her hands—literally.

Sophie later said she knew the audience probably must have been wondering why there was a girl in a T-shirt and jeans among the cheerleading uniforms. She didn’t pay any attention to the crowd, though. Her eyes were locked onto her flyer like a predator on it’s prey, and she repeated the counts in her head.

The flyer was launched into the air with each trick, and when she landed Sophie and the rest of the base clutched her feet with an iron grip. When the last trick had been performed, the flyer was hoisted up for the ending pose, and the crowd roared with hoots and hollers and applause. Sophie and the other members of the base tossed the flyer up, caught her in their arms, and then reunited her feet with the ground.

Sophie had done it.

She’d learned an entire stunt routine in only a matter of minutes, and her flyer never slipped from her grip.

As Sophie headed back to her seat, Leary announced to the audience what had happened and how Sophie had stepped in last minute for the stunt. People cheered for Sophie, and she was happy to have successfully completed the stunt, she said later. She returned to her seat with the sound of the crowd’s praise around her, and then she clapped along to the fight song as the homecoming pep rally came to a close.