Coed cheerleader breaks gender norm Cheerleader finds comfort in cheering after facing a severe injury, continues to make a positive impact on the team

Jack Leach, Sports Editor

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After typing “cheerleader” in Google Images, endless rows of women cheering, tumbling, and dancing appear.
What Google, and maybe society, has failed to notice is that males also play a large role in the success of cheer programs across the nation, including Plainfield South.
“We compete in the Coed division,” head coach, Brooke Twohill said. “In order to compete in Coed, you need at least two boys. We have four this year, which is great, because we have the opportunity to do more Coed and one man stunts.”
One out of the four boys includes former football player, CJ Hemker.
“I used to play football up until I shattered my collarbone during an arena football game,” Hemker said. “It took me two years to recover, and football seemed so out of reach. I missed being apart of a team and being active, so I attended an open gym for cheer, and I went on from there.”
According to Hemker, his past views on cheerleading were vastly different to now.
“I used to think it was all a joke,” Hemker said. “I used to view cheerleading as just standing on the sidelines at sporting events, but it’s much more than that; it’s as much of a sport as football, basketball, or wrestling.”
Hemker’s cheerleading experience may be limited, but a motivated work ethic has expressed his commitment.
“He is a very hard working athlete that always goes above and beyond for his teammates,” Twohill said. “Even though he is new to the sport, you can tell when he’s doing that he loves: competing.”
According to Twohill, Hemker brings a calm and supportive presence to the team.
“CJ always makes sure everyone on our team is okay,” senior teammate Gracie Treptow said. “At conference we took a tough loss, and I know a lot of people were torn up about it, including me. He was there to comfort me when I really needed it.”
Hemker, who holds a confident composure, has also felt the nerves similar to his teammates before competitions.
“I was initially scared to go and tryout for the team,” Hemker said. “I feared ridicule and teasing, but I quickly realized I no longer cared. If you have a dream or ambition, go for it; don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.”

(Left to right) Cheerleaders Hemker, David Ochoa, Jordan Lipowski, Orlando DeYoung pose together shortly after taking 1st place at the Lake Zurich Invitational.

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Coed cheerleader breaks gender norm Cheerleader finds comfort in cheering after facing a severe injury, continues to make a positive impact on the team