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Paynesville Press - November 20, 2002

Freshman cheers for Golden Gophers

By Michael Jacobson

When the Gophers football team heads to its bowl game next month, Jon Schefers will accompany the team and cheer them to victory. If the Gophers basketball team qualifies for the NCAA Tournament, Schefers may be on the court and in the stands cheering on the team.

Jon Schefers in action at Gophers game Schefers is part of the 16-member co-ed Maroon Spirit Squad, which cheers on the sidelines for home Gophers football games and men's basketball games. (There is also a separate 16-member, all-female cheerleading team.)

Being a cheeleader takes more than brawn, according to Jon Schefers (shown doing a lift stunt on Saturday). These stunts take technique, he said. The spirit squad practices nine hours per week.

For football games, the spirit squad is on the sideline throughout the game: leading the team onto the field with the Gophers' flag, doing stunts, yelling cheers, racing around the field with the flag after the Gophers score, and holding Goldie Gopher while he does pushups after the Gophers score.

For basketball, the squad will do some cheers and stunts on the court during the pre-game, halftime, and breaks in the action, and they will also lead cheers in the stands from their corner by the pep band.

Free admittance - with a great view of the action - is one of the perks of being on the spirit squad. "It's really nice to go to the football and basketball games with the team," said Schefers.

They also will get to go with the football team to a bowl game in December. "I'm hoping they go to a good bowl game this year," said Schefers. "Someplace warm."

In addition to the home football and basketball games, the spirit squad also is scheduled to go to a competition this winter.

Schefers, a freshman at the College of Agriculture on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, is the son of Ken and Julie Schefers of Paynesville. He plans to major in animal science with an emphasis in dairy and hopes to work for an ag-related genetics company someday.

Someone in his dormitory was going to the tryouts for the spirit squad and convinced Schefers - who competed in football, basketball, and track and field in high school and also played in the band and sang in the choir- to go to the tryout, too. Tryouts lasted a week for women and another week for men.

"I've been busy in high school, and I think that's helped me. I was busy in athletics, the arts, and helping on the farm," said Schefers. "Being busy is nothing new to me."

Schefers is one of two freshmen on the Maroon Spirit Squad, with the majority being upperclassmen. "It's nice to have all those people there," said Schefers. "They have a lot of experience. They can teach us young kids stuff."

Jon Schefers Lifting and tossing stunts take more than muscle. According to Schefers, it's a misconception that the male cheerleaders are just big brutes. "What a lot of people don't understand is it's a lot of technique," he explained.

"You just don't come there and toss them up," he said. "It takes a lot of hard work. It's not as easy as it looks."

Jon Schefers, a 2002 PAHS graduate and a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Cheers on the Gophers football team on Saturday at the Metrodome against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Schefers is a member of the Maroon Spirit Squad, which cheers for Gophers football and men's basketball games.

The required technique must be done by both the men and the women, he added. In addition to toss stunts, lifting stunts, and catching, Schefers is learning to tumble. So far, he is still mastering back flips.

The spirit squad practices for three hours per day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at the Buerman Athletic Complex. Team members also lift weights at the main athletic building on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Schefers said he really enjoys being on the spirit squad but isn't sure how long he will be able to continue with it, since it takes a lot of time.

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