By Hannah Simon, Co-Sports Editor Friday night lights — the excitement of the football team’s enduring success nipping at the student section, the band belting out the harmonies of Encanto and the long-lasting popularity of the concession stands — now has just one more thing for fans to cheer on. Sporting a white polo shirt...
By Hannah Simon, Co-Sports Editor
Friday night lights — the excitement of the football team’s enduring success nipping at the student section, the band belting out the harmonies of Encanto and the long-lasting popularity of the concession stands — now has just one more thing for fans to cheer on.
Sporting a white polo shirt and gray sweatpants, sophomore Henry Barnes can now be seen hoisting girls up into back-breaking stunts and waving pom poms amongst the formerly all-female squad. After hearing a classmate talk about the team in biology class, Barnes reminisced on his past years in competitive cheer and decided to return to cheerleading after a two year hiatus.
“They (tryouts) were intimidating, not in a bad way, just more in the way that there’s a bunch of kids there that didn’t know (if) they’re gonna make it,” Barnes said. “It was fun though. Everyone was very accepting.”
An avid tumbler with a background in gymnastics, Barnes began cheering competitively at age 8. Eventually qualifying for the Cheerleading Worlds Championship in Orlando, Florida, Barnes accumulated a remarkable passion for the sport. Cheerleading, while not popular amongst men, combines high energy components with a detailed precision in a fast-paced environment — one that Barnes thrived in and loved.
“To me, it’s always been normal. Whenever I did competitive cheer, there were always four or five other guys on the team,” Barnes said.
Barnes inevitably stood out among the cheerleaders. Not only because he is the only boy who has been a part of the organization in decades, but because of his bright, contagious personality and fearlessness in everything he does, according to Montgomery.
“We were so excited because we’ve never had a boy on the team. And having Henry for the first time this year is so exciting, especially because he’s so talented,” said senior captain Ellie Montgomery. “We were crossing our fingers hoping he would make the team.”
Despite his credentials, Barnes’ membership received particular attention from the coach and captains. Because the team is accustomed to girls, there were concerns about how the sophomore would acclimate to the team’s and the community’s reaction. Not one to shy away from an opportunity like this, Barnes participates as much as possible in routines and events, garnering the attention and adoration of the community.
“We (the captains and coach) told (Barnes) from the beginning if you’re ever uncomfortable with anything at all, change it — do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable,” Montgomery said.
His technique managed to catapult Barnes’ role within the team, with his strength maximizing the difficulty level of routines and his knowledge allowing him to command any dance series. Besides tumbling, he primarily works as a back spot behind the stunt, ensuring the flyer does not fall.
“Conestoga has always been known as a really clean team. We’re always very sharp and together,” Montgomery said. “Now having Henry just adds that aspect of ‘Wow, that was really cool.’”
The addition of a male member will understandably distinguish the squad from its rivals, and if he makes the winter competition team, he will help the squad stand out. No matter his role from cartwheeler to back spot, it is clear that Barnes has become a key member of the team who his teammates have grown to love.
Hannah Simon can be reached at [email protected]
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