Story and photo by Ashley Beall
It’s been awhile since a male cheerleader has graced the court of the Knapp Center, but it has finally happened.
Senior Nathan Bleadorn had never been a cheerleader before this year. In high school, he played football, basketball, tennis, baseball and ran track, but throughout his years at Drake, he always thought about joining the cheerleading squad.
“I knew some of the girls on the squad, and we had talked about it in passing,” Bleadorn said. “My dad actually cheered in college, and so it had been in my mind but nothing really concrete had come of it.”
Things changed after he got in touch with the coach and one of the cheer captains, Tess Wickes. Bleadorn talked to them about what it would entail and tried it out by attending a few practices. He decided to make it official and made his debut a few games into the basketball season.
“The best part is how accepting everyone’s been and how patient they’ve been with me,” Bleadorn said. “It’s exciting for me, and it’s exciting for them too. They’ve been really supportive, and it’s also fun to be at the games and see a lot of people who are excited to see me.”
Members of the cheer team are excited to have a new male member as well.
“Nate is a major impact to the squad. He is always willing to do new stunts and he adds a lot of muscle to the team. I would love if more guys would join because it would make the squad stronger and we would be able to do a lot more advance stunts,” first-year cheerleader Sarah Elizabeth Worrell said.
Bleadorn practices with the team, but also does additional lifting to bulk up and build strength. Bleadorn mainly bases and backs stunts, but he also works with partners in stunts.
Bleadorn also recently learned a new stunt, the “Whirly Bird.” In this stunt, Bleadorn has someone on his shoulders, and another person grabs onto that person’s legs, and Bleadorn spins around with these two people attached to him.
A lot of people don’t think of cheerleading as being a tough sport, but Bleadorn says otherwise.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work and I’ve gotten a lot of new respect for the cheer squad.
One of the harder parts for Bleadorn was learning how to work together.
“We have to know who is going to be where and when. Safety is important, so getting comfortable with balance and throws and catches takes practice,” Bleadorn said.
Some students have expressed their excitement in having a male cheerleader on the team now.
“I think it’s great. Most colleges have male cheerleaders on their squads, so it’s only natural that we should as well,” first-year Kevin Maisto said. “Plus, I have an incredible amount of respect for this guy making the effort to try something new.”
In the future, Bleadorn also hopes for more males to join the cheerleading team.
“It’s interesting there’s talk of another guy joining the team and I’ve talked to some of my friends about joining and I’m hoping it will get the ball rolling and have other guys join it,” Bleadorn said. “We’re working on it.”