Flying high with no net

Abby Martinez knows how much goes into completing a successful stunt. If the stunt comes down, it may not be one person’s fault.

Martinez, a 2012 Lake graduate, is in her first year coaching cheerleading at her alma mater. On a recent summer evening, she led her team through an open gym practice at the middle school, running through tumbling, jumps, and stunts.

The stunts, also known as mounting, require trust and skill. As two girls raise another into the air, the base is created. Another girl is in the back, ready to catch the flyer, the girl at the top.

To properly pull off the stunts, modern cheerleading teams need more athleticism than they may have required in the past.

“We’re actually true athletes, so we’re using a lot of skill and muscle,” Martinez, 24, said. “And when we do that, we’re grabbing [the crowd’s] attention, but we’re doing it in a way to cheer the boys on and to cheer the team on.”

Falling is a part of cheerleading, but Martinez needs to respond with support. Like so many things in life, recovery isn’t easy when you’ve been knocked down.

“We don’t expect perfection, that’s really unrealistic,” Martinez said.

Cheerleaders don’t perform on an island. They’ll interact with the student section and marching band during games. The Flyers run around with flags that spell out Lake in their efforts to grab the crowd’s attention.

“We interact very closely with [the student section] and we cheer with them through class cheers and different cheers that they request to do,” said Jaelyn Fairchild, a senior at Lake.

Assistant coach Kim Goetz worked with Martinez at Genoa High School when Martinez was a volunteer assistant there. Goetz wants to help provide spirit for the football team, whether it’s decorating lockers or decorating the school.

“I think it will be good for them, too,” Goetz said. “Get the girls involved with the football players, and basketball team when that’s around.”

The team practices twice a week during the school year. The full squad didn’t practice together this summer, so the team focused on game day material to begin the season.

It’s not just about Friday night football, though. Cheerleading competitions are televised on television networks such as ESPN. Martinez has her sights on the OASSA’s State Cheerleading and Dance Championships for a sixth straight year.

The squad’s routine consists of tumbling, dancing, and stunting. With Lake being in a stunting division, Martinez said judges will be looking closely at the team’s execution on stunts. Having consistent, solid execution on their stunts will be important.

“They’re looking to make sure our stunts go up in the air, and they don’t come down,” Martinez said.

And Martinez knows that truly takes a team effort.

Link to full Toledo Blade “Behind the Lights” package: https://newsinteractive.toledoblade.com/behind-the-lights/

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