One of a Kind

The bleachers of roaring students, the brassy sound of the marching band, the intent, excited faces of everyone around him, and the charged atmosphere are what junior Gabe Alaniz loves about being a cheerleader.
“I always wanted to be a part of the Shawnee Mission South cheerleading program since my freshman year,” Gabe said. “My cousin has always been a cheerleader and I’d go to her games and stuff. I loved the excitement of it, and they always appeared to have exceptional strength.”

Gabe’s interest in cheerleading began with his perception of cheerleaders as strong leaders and enthusiastic, upbeat people.
Though every year there are new additions to the squads, this one was particularly revolutionary; Gabe is the first male cheerleader in South history.
“West has like ten, and I know a lot of other schools have some too. We were the only ones who didn’t until now,” cheerleader Sami Farrell said.

However, though males on squads are gaining popularity throughout the area, Alaniz’s role is slightly different from those on other squads.
“Yeah, they all have yell leaders,” JV cheerleader Cody Matthews said. “Not male cheerleaders though. I think we’re the first ones in the Shawnee Mission school district who have one.”

Of course, being the first anything always comes with its challenges. Before trying out, Alaniz admitted to hearing rumors of disapproval.
“I am sure that there are people talking. These people only make me better. They make me want to cheer that much more,” he said.

The morning of tryouts, Gabe said he felt the usual nerves, but tried for a positive mentality.
“I woke up excited, nervous, and anxious. Of course I ate breakfast and drank lots of water,” he said.

Once there, Gabe did his best to keep calm, and maintain his goal.
“In my head I was thinking varsity. I always aim really high and end up coming just a little bit shorter. But I was so happy I made JV,” he said.

According to his fellow cheerleaders, however, Gabe does anything but fall short as a cheerleader.
“He’s really passionate, he works really hard. He’s never cheered before and he’s just as good as everyone else. Actually, I’d say he’s up there [with the best of the squad],” Sami Farrell said.

Despite Gabe’s skill, the addition of a male to the squad changes the dynamics.
“Some things he can’t do, like certain dances and holding pom poms but we made it work. I cheered with a guy in middle school so it’s not that different for me,” Farrell said.

But, his cheer mates admire his love and dedication to cheerleading. Gabe described the squad as very united and naturally cohesive.
Alaniz seems to be an active motivator for the rest of the squad.
“He’s just always happy, he loves to do it. He’s never come to practice in a bad mood and he’s willing to try anything,” Matthews said.

Gabe’s leadership abilities might stem from his tremendous support. He feels his friends, family, fellow cheerleaders and coaches are all standing behind him.
“I always knew my mom would be there for me, she’s always on my side and really supportive. My dad had to come around, but he’s really happy for me too,” Gabe said.

As for the future, Gabe hopes to inspire not only more males to join squads, but also anyone with a goal to put aside their inhibitions and do their best to achieve it.
“I really do hope [more males] do [join]. I mean, its pretty fun being the only guy but I would enjoy having another one. I wouldn’t want to be the first and last. But I think being the first male cheerleader at Shawnee Mission South is definitely something to be proud of. I had to work really hard to make the squad and I hope to inspire others to achieve their goals no matter what stands in their way.”