Brianna Ibarra takes her cheer career to the next level

Rory Dungan, Writer

Marching band, dance team and both JV and varsity cheer squads line up to form a tunnel for the football team to run through before the kick-off of the game. Junior Brianna Ibarra is comforted by her bases as she takes a deep breath and steps into their hands, about to go up in an extension. Her bases can feel her shaking with nerves, but, nonetheless, she smiles and waves to the crowd.

Ibarra, a varsity cheerleader for the first time this year, was a flyer as well as a base during the football season, something that she had to adjust to, since she has limited experience in the air.

“This year we had to have her fly because we were short flyers,” varsity cheerleading coach Renee Chambers said. “She’s a team player and a hard worker.”

A flyer’s responsibilities include keeping her muscles tight and maintaining balance, all while several feet above the ground. The job of a base is to keep the flyer steady.

Ibarra has found new experiences while working with stunting techniques.

“When they threw me in to fly this year, it was challenging because I have never really done it,” Ibarra said. “I have always been used to basing. I’m not scared of the air, but it was different.”

Her past experience basing gives her confidence to fly without fear of failure.

“If you have a flyer that isn’t tight, it makes it a lot heavier on your bases,” Ibarra said. “I know that for them, I need to stay tight in the air and keep my head and chest up, and it will be easier on them.”

At practice and during seventh hour cheer class, captains and coaches take the lead in giving Ibarra pointers on how to perfect her technique. When she goes up in a new stunt for the first time, girls surround the stunt ready to catch her in case she falls. Her teammates yell up to her to remind her to tighten all of her muscles, to remain stiff as a board and not lean forward or backward.

“Any time someone says something to her, she never takes it as an insult,” Chambers said. “She takes it more as constructive criticism, and she always works to get better. If she doesn’t know, she isn’t afraid to ask.”

Once she perfects her techniques in practice, she takes them to the stage, in front of hundreds of students at football games and assemblies. Ibarra performs multiple stunts at games, the simplest being a “show and go.” This stunt begins with the bases’ arms bent as Ibarra stands upright with one foot in her bases’ hands. Then there is a series of up-and-down motions as she places her other foot in their hands and pushes off their shoulders. The bases extend their arms and push her upward at the same time. The stunt ends, going down the same way it went up, but in reverse.

The competitive atmosphere during the squad’s performances prompts Ibarra to focus so completely on what she is doing that she does not hear anything around her, including the cheers from students in the stands.  

“Everything is just blocked out until I hear my backspot tell me to dismount,” Ibarra said. “When I’m up there, I just try to focus on one thing, and not look down. If you look down, you’re coming down.”

Ibarra’s cheerleading commitment encourages her to spend her time wisely, and eliminate the things in her life that prevent her from meeting her goals and doing her best.

“I sacrificed friends that didn’t necessarily have the best influence on me,” Ibarra said. “I chose to go a different way with the people I hang out with.”

The football team charges through the tunnel, and finally, Ibarra hears her backspot call “dismount 1, 2.” As her feet hit the ground, she hears a series of “Good jobs” from her stunt group. She runs back to the track with her team, ready for another game.