by Claire Carter | editor in chief
When you think of Johnson cheer what comes to mind is usually pom poms, big bows, and megaphones, more specifically spotted by girls. But, as of next year, Johnson cheer can be defined by the first spirit organization on campus to have a boy on the squad.
“I’ve been a gymnast my whole life…I was really surprised when I heard there are no guy cheerleaders here,” sophomore Justin Villanueva said.
Villanueva transferred from Marshall High School, where he cheered alongside several male cheerleaders.
“I would tell guys to go for it and try out because it’s a lot of fun,” Villanueva said. “I mean it’s a lot of money and it’s not easy but it’s really fun and you get a good workout.”
Girls on the team have been very welcoming to Villanueva’s addition to the program.
“It’s so cool to actually have someone try out and not be afraid of being the first guy cheerleader at Johnson, junior Megan Mollicone said. “The best part is that it’s something new and he is very nice and really good and it adds a new aspect to cheer.”
Mollicone was recently named head cheerleader for the 2015-2016 cheer season. Mollicone’s optimism for next year proves that current cheerleaders and Villanueva are more alike than different.
“It’s not that he’s just an awesome cheerleader, because he has done this his whole life just like all of us. It’s awesome that he made it and that he is a part of the team,” Mollicone said. “He is the funniest kid and there is nothing awkward about having him on the team.”
Villanueva moved at the end of freshman year and missed tryouts for the 2014-2015 school year. He approached JHS cheer head coach Shannon McKinley about trying out, but unfortunately would have to wait until sophomore year because he transferred after tryouts.
“He is super eager to learn and adjust to the different style [of JHS cheer] and so I think that with him really making it such a point to adapt and learn to the best of his ability he is really going to set a great example for other people,” McKinley said.
Villanueva’s transition has been smooth, as his cheerleading background has given him experience and talent that he can contribute to the team next year.
“The program will keep the same but it may open up possibilities in the future for people who may not have thought about it before….hopefully [Justin’s addition to the team will] set that example for people when he’s out there at the football games and it will trigger the idea that if it’s something they can do then they can try out too,” McKinley said.
As students are not familiar with male cheerleaders at Johnson, Villanueva recognizes that some may form opinions about his involvement in spirit.
“The hardest part for me is that it’s a female dominant sport and I know that I’m going to get judged for [being a part of the cheer team],” Villanueva said. “I get my confidence from the people around me like my friends who tell me, ‘Oh I’m so excited for you you’re so good.’”