The Rough Rider

Jackson Xu, Cheering on Through High School

Kayla Gonzalez, Staff Writer

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Anyone who has attended an RHS football game for the past four years knows who Jackson Xu is. With a bright smile and big personality, Jackson has quickly become one of the most well known cheerleaders on the team, and it’s easy to see why. But who really is Jackson Xu? And why did he decide that cheerleading was the sport that he wanted to pursue in his high school career?

Curious to know, I interviewed Jackson about his life with cheerleading.

At what age did you start cheerleading?

I started cheering when I was 14, in freshmen year.

What made you decide to start cheering?

I wanted to go into cheerleading because it was the closest sport to gymnastics. After trying it out, it really grew on me.

How long were you in gymnastics?

I was in gymnastics for three years, from 2012-2014. Before then, I tried to teach myself everything, but through professional coaching, I became much better.

What do you love most about your sport?

What I love most about the sport is the competitions. Instead of the cheerleaders cheering on other sports, it’s us that is competing, and you get to see what makes each school different. I think that cheerleading has the most passionate athletes. You can easily tell from watching a competition.

Have you ever felt insecure about being the only male cheerleader on the team?

Honestly, yes at first. It was freshmen year, so we were already at the bottom of the totem pole. But because I was so inexperienced with cheer, it was kind of awkward at first doing all of the dancing and cheering. I was afraid that others would question my sexuality, but since then I’ve gained much respect as person for them to think past that.

What is your favorite memory from being on the RHS cheerleading squad?

My favorite memory was in 2014 at the OIA competition, when I was on the varsity team and we qualified for the state competition. Many of the schools competed well, but we were able to work as a team to do a routine that had both high skill and showmanship.

Do you plan to cheer after high school?

With gymnastics available at collegiate level, I’m not entirely sure if I’ll continue cheerleading. I sure would like to do both if the opportunity arises.

What is your favorite routine and why?

My favorite routine has to be our routine for the homecoming halftime show this year. It started off with the competition squad convincing part of our competitive team to practice in front of a crowd because our competition was the very next day and we were able to put up all of our stunts safely and as planned. We then had the sideline cheerleaders join us for our sassy advanced dance that they learned over the summer at cheer camp. It was also the seniors’ last homecoming which gets pretty emotional at the end, but for me, it was a great way to end the sideline season for high school.

What is the team like overall? Does everyone get along?

The team is quite diverse in personalities. Outside of practice or competitions, most of them are kind of reserved and closed, but when we come together, it’s like they’re totally different people. We’re more comfortable with each other and do things that we wouldn’t really do outside. We all get along naturally because it is really a team sport that can’t be done alone. Although we might not all have the same skills, all of our roles are equally important.

How often does your team practice for both sideline and competitive cheer?

The teams practice only twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:00-6:30 PM. Our coaches are gracious enough to trust that we’ll do conditioning on the off days to give us more freedom than other sports may offer.

Do you have any advice to give to any students that are interested in trying out for the cheerleading squad next year?

If they really want to try out for sideline cheer, I would most definitely encourage them to do it. In my four years, we have many first time senior cheerleaders that finally decided to try out for them team and wish that they made the decision sooner. For the competitive team, only do it if you know that you’re willing to go through some hard practices and tough criticism. It’s definitely one of the most dangerous sports because of the tumbling and stunting that we do, so it does demand for experienced athletes as well.

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Jackson Xu, Cheering on Through High School