Cheer This!

As the JHS football and cheer squads prepare for a home playoff game vs. Grant on Friday, November 2, let's thank the cheerleaders for two sorely-needed, purely positive reasons to cheer the past two Friday nights. During a tough fortnight in our nation, our cheerleaders have reminded us that acts of compassion and solidarity can help our spirits soar.

The first moment of grace occurred at halftime of the Jesuit-Sunset football game. In a unique occasion for connection, the Sunset and Jesuit cheer squads performed a scintillating halftime routine together. In a quite literal as well as symbolic way, the members of both teams decided to support one another and prop each other up.

Says JHS head cheer coach Tori Cotton, "We have good relationships among the coaches in the Metro League and throughout Oregon. I am friends with Sunset's coach, Stacey Roeder. At the annual coaches' conference, during a hip-hop dance class, I thought it would be fun to do a joint performance. Stacey and I discussed the idea, and I discovered she was excited about it as well! So we decided to practice the routine for the Jesuit v. Sunset football game."

As it happens, Sunset's cheer squad practices around the same time as JHS at the Oregon Dream Teams tumbling facility. The teams spent two practices learning the routine, which Coach Cotton choreographed. When it came time to perform, the green, gold, and purple team(s) nailed it!

Says senior captain Caitlyn Monfries, "The moment the Sunset and Jesuit squads came together as one team at our joint practices, we instantly clicked and had such a fun time together. We made jokes during practices, yet we still worked hard to make the routine flow. I can say on behalf of both teams that we made new friends throughout the experience. I am proud that we showed the crowd that two rival schools can come together as one in a spirit of sportsmanship."

The next special moment came the very next week, at the Friday, October 26 JHS football game against Beaverton. At halftime of that game, the "Smiles and Pom-Poms" squad presented a not-to-be-forgotten cheer routine to Katy Perry's hit song "Firework."

Under the Friday night lights, junior Abby Riddle and her "Smiles" assistant coaches Kiera Patterson '19 and Lucy Bell '20 led fourteen young athletes with Downs Syndrome in their second annual cheer-and-dance performance on Cronin Field. The athletes, ages 8 to 18, practiced for several Sundays afternoons at Jesuit, under the tutelage of Abby, Kiera, and Lucy.

VIDEO: Watch Abby Riddle's interview with KGW

Abby was inspired to start Smiles and Pom Poms after she and her dad volunteered together at a Special Olympics basketball tournament. "The special athletes were so energetic, loving, and confident—it was contagious. This was the beginning of an experience that has changed our lives."

After their day of volunteering, Abby wanted to figure out a way to give back to the community. As a varsity cheerleader at Jesuit, forming her own special cheer and dance team seemed like the right fit. Thus, after much hard work in the summer of 2017, Smiles and Pom Poms was born.

"Last year's performance was life-changing. I got to see the effect that dancing and performing had on our special athletes and the joy it brought them, their parents—and me!" says Abby about the team's first performance at a JHS football game last season. "The Jesuit community also was impacted. The students, fans, teachers, and parents were overwhelmingly supportive. The energy in the stadium was electric!"

Again this year, the support in Cronin for the "Smiles" squad was spectacular—as were the shining faces and smiles of the very special cheer squad that Abby had organized.

After a second year of success, Abby asks: "Why not try to get other cheerleaders at other schools to do this program?"

Clearly, our cheer squad knows how to connect in the names of sportsmanship, service, and fun! We are betting that Abby and her teammates will have success spreading the joy and the smiles.

Meanwhile, as we head into a Big Weekend, with playoff games for men's and women's soccer, volleyball, football, and the state cross-country meet... let's get out there, Sader Nation, and Cheer!

Paul J. Hogan