Murray cheerleading evolves

Chalice Keith/The News
Kenneth Gray launches a flyer into the air in a high risk airborn maneuver.Chalice Keith/The News Kenneth Gray launches a flyer into the air in a high risk airborn maneuver.

Squad takes on male athletes

Story by Breanna Sill, Staff writer

Chalice Keith/The News Kenneth Gray launches a flyer into the air in a high risk airborn maneuver.

Chalice Keith/The News
Kenneth Gray launches a flyer into the air in a high risk airborn maneuver.

To the people who say cheerleading is not a sport, Daryl Finnie, sophomore from Memphis, Tennessee, has one thing to say: “Meet me on the mat.”

Finnie is one of four new additions to Murray State’s new co-ed cheerleading squad. He, along with Kenneth Gray, sophomore from Louisville, Kentucky, Dannis Seay, senior from Oceanside, California and Chantry Carroll, senior from Murray, are the first male cheerleading squad members Murray State has had since 2007.

According to Murray State policy, in order for a male to join the cheerleading squad there must be at least three others willing to try out and make the squad.

That is what encouraged Finnie, who was previously a part of an all-star squad, to find three friends to try out for the squad with him. He spent the entirety of his freshman year looking for the right guys.

“I had never cheered a day in my life,” said Gray. “Lane told me ‘It’s going to be me, you and a couple other guys, but let’s try out for co-ed cheer.’ That day he helped me start getting my skills together to start cheering.”

Gray learned to tumble, or flip, in only six months.

His most advanced skill is a standing backward tuck.

Finnie and Gray both agree that their favorite part about cheerleading is the co-ed stunting and tumbling.

Stunting is what cheerleaders do when they build human pyramids or lift a flyer into the air on either one or two feet.

During co-ed stunting, a male and a female only stunt together when the female is thrown into the air by the male.

The men are not the only ones who are excited about the newest additions to the cheerleading squad.

Abby Branham, freshman from Lexington, Kentucky, and fellow cheerleader said the boys bring a new light to the squad.

“It definitely helps us,” she said. “Their strength alone allows them to do things we can’t, like four girls doing something compared to one guy.”

While some may think cheerleading is only yelling chants and supporting a team; that is not the case.

The 2013 the Journal of Pediatrics named cheerleading the number one most dangerous contact sport.

Gray and Finnie understand the risks of the sport, but said, for them, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

“Cheer is not just physical, but a mental challenge,” Gray said. “If you have any fear of getting hurt, then I don’t think cheer is for you.”

Cheerleading was deemed so dangerous because of the high risk of concussion and the risk of catastrophic injury.

“This is one sport where if you tell yourself you can’t do something, you’re probably going to get hurt if you try it,” Finnie said. “In basketball, if you say ‘Oh, I can’t shoot this shot’ you can still throw it up there, you don’t lose anything from trying it. Cheerleading isn’t like that.”

In the next two years, Finnie and Gray hope the cheerleading squad continues to grow and expand into something larger.

They even hope that eventually they can expand into two separate, one all girl and one co-ed, squads.

“We definitely want more guys,” Finnie said. “We want so many people trying out that we want the school to say that we can’t only have 16 people cheering. We want to expand that to more than 16 people on this cheer team.”