Lehigh cheerleaders prepare for Lehigh-Lafayette

The Lehigh cheerleading team prepared for the Lehigh-Lafayette football game while balancing the football and basketball seasons.

Captain Sara Menand, 25, said there is more pressure on the team to perform well in the Le-Laf match as this match receives more attention than other matches in the season.

Collette Kissell, 25, said the game attracts a large number of alumni as well as students.

“Everything that all the graduates know, remember and expect to be exactly the same as when they graduate just adds a little more pressure because you know these people are coming back,” Menand said.

Kissell said Le-Laf reinforces Lehigh traditions.

“I learned from the cheerleading team that everything we do, every dance we do, has a tradition behind it,” said Kissell. “We’re doing this because we’ve done it in the past.”

One tradition the band participates in is Eco-flame, Marching 97’s traditional march across campus.

In the week leading up to Saturday’s football game, the Lehigh marching band performs traditional Lehigh battle songs as it is paraded around campus, including during classes in sessions, dining halls, and residential buildings.

The event got its name after Rich Aaronson, an economics professor in the 1970s, asked the band to perform in his ECO 001 class.

Members of the cheerleading team will join the marching band as they perform traditional Lehigh fight chants at multiple stops around campus during Le-Laf Week.

Kissell said that the cheerleaders dance with the band to Lehigh’s battle song “GRL^2” during Eco-flame.

“Cheerleading has trends and (follows) what’s popular, so (cheers) serve that, but our dances are one thing that never changes,” said Kissell.

Menand said the Eco-flame is the team’s biggest tradition of the week.

“You really want to make sure you keep all the traditions alive,” Menand said.

Blair Dickinson, 26, said cheerleaders also visit the tailgate before every game during the football season.

Since alumni and non-college participants cannot experience Eco-flame during the week at Lehigh, Menand said before the Le-Laf game, the team tries to perform for as many back gates as possible so participants can orientate themselves in the team’s Eco-flame activity.

Other traditions, she said, include ringing a bell for each point scored by the soccer team, performing a special touchdown dance, and performing certain songs such as “Gablet”, “Rearing Tearing”, “Lehigh Will Shine”, and “Fight”.

A cheerleading team typically has 16 to 18 members at a time. Menand said multiples of four are best because each stunt group consists of four people.

Tryouts are held in the spring, and anyone from high school seniors who will be attending Lehigh to current students can try out.

Kissell said rehearsals typically last two days. On the first day, the participants will get acquainted with the performance material, and on the second day they will try their hand.

Kissell said the team is selling their trial run through Lehigh’s cheerleading Instagram, where most members learn about the team.

Dickinson said she flew in from Houston, Texas to try it out in person because it was the same weekend as Lehigh Fest for admitted students, although there was also a virtual try out option at the time.

Menand said current members have to try again every year.

She said the team will also do fall rehearsals if needed, such as if they want more people on the team or need specific items such as bases or flyers.

The team trains twice a week for about two hours for each training session.

Dickinson said practices include warm-ups and whoops, band dances and formations. She said they also work on stunts and pyramid schemes if they have time.

She said the team helped her find a community in Lehigh. When Dickinson first arrived at the university, she said she didn’t know anyone, and her teammates were the first people she met.

She said that at rehearsals she was immediately greeted by older students. Dickinson said the team is not in competition and hopes everyone will give their best and encourage each other.

“I felt like we were in this together and we wanted to improve each other instead of just focusing on seniority,” said Dickinson.

Dickinson said she already felt comfortable and safe at Lehigh before the academic year started. She said she has felt welcome on campus ever since.

Because the team is smaller than most other sports teams, Dickinson said they are generally overlooked.

She said spectators at Lehigh basketball and football games would certainly notice if they weren’t present at the games.

“I think our presence, whether or not it goes unnoticed, is definitely significant at all games,” said Dickinson.

Leading up to Le-Laf, Kissell said team members are more aware of the upcoming match in training.

“From the beginning of the season, we were conditioned to do dances, it’s nothing else,” said Kissell. “It’s about understanding what’s going to happen with the schedule this week.”

Dickinson said she was looking forward to attending her first Le-Laf match.

“I’m super excited because I know this is the game everyone’s been waiting for,” she said. “I think it would be nice to have a large student section. … So I think it’s going to be really fun and I think the energy will definitely lift us and everyone else.”

She said she was looking forward to a large turnout and watching everyone have fun supporting the soccer team.

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