This fall, two boys joined the varsity cheerleading team for the first time in five years: freshman Hunter Magri and senior James Whitfield.

Both Magri and Whitfield have done cheerleading previously. This season, Magri is a varsity alternate, while Whitfield is a backspot.

“Being one of the two boys in cheer doesn’t really feel that different,” Magri said. “I tend to not notice it since I’m so comfortable with my [team].”

Whitfield, who began cheering his sophomore year before taking a break and continuing this year, said the sport is very therapeutic for him.

“Cheerleading just helps,” Whitfield said. “Let’s just say I’m not the most mentally positive person. Cheer makes my life easier.”

Cheerleading head coach Dominic Borello said he believes participation in athletics is an important part of the high school experience and thinks anyone interested in the sport should try out.

“It’s fantastic to have male athletes,” Borello said. “I think most students are unaware that cheer is a co-ed sport and that leads to lower numbers of boys trying out.”

Junior and varsity cheerleader Amelia Magee said she was excited to hear there would be boys on the team this year because it would be a change to the dynamic they were yet to experience.

“It’s always great to see that different types of people are interested in cheer,” Magee said. “Having boys on the team adds […] skill and strength that we didn’t have before.”

Whitfield said the attitude towards cheerleading at Marshall needs to shift before more boys will want to join the sport.

“A lot of guys don’t try out because of their own insecurities,” Whitfield said. “A lot of people think male cheerleaders are ‘wrong’ […] It would be cool if more guys joined [the team], but from what I’ve seen at Marshall, it’ll be awhile before that kind of progress is made.”

Magri said another reason there are few male cheerleaders at Marshall is not many boys see it as a masculine sport and they may feel they will be teased or ridiculed for wanting to try out, but he disagrees.

“[Anyone on the team] would be welcomed with open arms,” Magri said. “My experience with cheer has been fantastic so far […] The other cheerleaders have been so nice and warm to me. I [feel] so accepted by every one of them.”

Whitfield said everyone on the cheerleading team supports each other, and he feels as though they have helped him improve as a cheerleader.

“Everyone has your back on this team,” Whitfield said. “You’re respected and cared for. I really feel like this team has helped me grow in my skills.”