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A Time Of Cheer Change At Escalon High School
Those attending Escalon High School football games this fall might notice some changes, especially at the JV and varsity games.

There will not be designated freshman or JV cheerleading squads this year, said new coach, Andreane Mercier. Previously serving as basketball cheer coach, she also owns Powerhouse dance studio in Escalon and said she was hired "maybe sometime in April" to take over the fall cheer position.

Also new this year is a dance team, instead of a cheerleading squad for basketball, which Mercier coaches. And for the first time, girls were allowed to try out for both. Volunteer assistant coach, Brandi Platt, said there is more interaction between the squads and they work together, although only a handful are doing both.

Of the more than 40 girls that tried out for the football cheer squad, only 22 remain after some girls left the squad, Mercier said. Moreover, only two are seniors, while 15 are freshmen. Therefore, they have combined into a varsity squad, but the freshmen will cheer for both freshman and varsity games. The girls will only cheer the second half of JV games, Mercier added.

"A lot of girls quit," said senior cheerleader, Courtney Russell. "Some of the girls didn't like her coaching style."

The walkout occurred after one girl in particular was being "constructively criticized," Mercier said.

Senior, and long-time cheerleader Shannon Montgomery, was one of the girls to quit the squad.

"I very quickly started realizing it was too much for me," Montgomery said. "It was not a happy experience for me."

Practices began prior to finals week at the end of last school year and have continued through the summer. The girls practice twice a week for three hours each day.

"We get straight to it," Mercier said.

The first 30 to 45 of minutes of practice consists of conditioning and improving flexibility, which Platt said will make for different and unique stunts that can be completed safely. Previously, conditioning was not a large part of football cheerleading practice.

Mercier, who has a bachelor's in theater and dance, said she would like to do competitions in the future.

"They have a lot in store for them," Mercier said. "I'm going to make this team strong."

Both the dance team and cheer squad were scheduled to attend a United Cheer Association, UCA, Cheer Camp in Davis from Aug. 6 through 9 to expand on the three routines and various cheers they already have in progress.

More changes will be seen during football games, the girls will not be stationary, Mercier said. They will be moving from the parents' side to the kids'.

According to Mercier, she and the school received a large number of phone calls regarding the changes that are being made and the combining of the squads as a result of some girls walking off.

But she is confident in what the girls will present on the field.

"The remaining girls are driven and hungry to be on my team," Mercier said.