Male Wildcat cheerleader keeps squad flying high

Chico State Wildcat cheerleader Omar Chavira provides support and balance for cheer team captain Alyssa Hansen. Photo courtesy of Omar Chavira

Some are destined to play the guitar and others know from the start they want to be a lawyer, but for sophomore Omar Chavira it took time to find his calling as a cheerleader.

Chavira had played soccer and track and field for a number of years before he realized he wanted a change of pace.

“(It was) senior year — I had nothing to lose,” Chavira said.

In all three season he has been cheering, Chavira has always been the lone male on the team.

It could be overwhelming being with so many women all the time, but it is not something that really bothers him, he said.

“It’s kind of nice,” Chavira said. “You get a lot of attention.”

He even gets certain routines focused around his skill set.

Having a man on the team makes the stunts more dynamic and diverse, said Brooke Shanahan, cheer team coach.

“A guy compared to a girl in stunting — it’s unbelievable,” Shanahan said. “Guys can throw girls so much higher. He can do one man stunts.”

Stunting is one of the basic building blocks of cheerleading, in which a base or a group of bases lift or toss a flyer overhead to perform tricks in the air.

If there were more men on the team, it would elevate her squad to the next level, Shanahan said. For a short time there was another guy on the team, but he quit shortly after joining.

Getting men to join the team is hard, said Alyssa Hansen, sophomore captain.

There are two main reasons for this: The Chico State cheer team does not go to competitions, and they are not allowed to stunt in games, because the team is not officially a part of the athletic department, Hansen said.

It was the athletic department’s lack of funds that kept Chico State from incorporating the cheer team into the athletic department, Shanahan said.

The team is not allowed to stunt during basketball games because of safety concerns and liability issues with Chico State.

“This hurts us the most because most people’s favorite thing in cheer is stunting,” said Maija Lazenby, sophomore co-captain.

However, this rule only applies to basketball home games. The cheer team can still stunt when they table or at events like Up ‘Til Dawn.

None of this deterred Chavira from joining the squad, he said. Even though he doesn’t get to do as much as he wants, he still loves being on the team, he said.

Not only is he an asset to the team for stunting, but people also look up to him as a leader and a role model, Shanahan said.

Chavira hopes to inspire other men who want to cheer collegiately but are hesitant, he said

As of now, Chavira has no plans to further his cheerleading career past college, he said, but he is open to the possibility of continuing.

James Groh can be reached at [email protected] or @James_Groh14 on Twitter