Athletes of different backgrounds find fulfillment in collegiate cheer

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BYU cheerleaders practice before the Boise game. Several of the new cheerleaders originally had their sights set on football. (Ari Davis)
BYU cheerleaders practice before the Boise game. Freshman Byrson Haynie originally had his sights set on football before joining the Cheer squad. (Ari Davis)

Bryson Haynie dreamed of playing college football since he was a kid. But he never imagined he would find himself out on the field at every BYU game as a BYU cheerleader.

The end of his senior year of high school, Haynie visited his cousin, Jess Young, who was trying out for the BYU cheer squad.

BYU Cheer coach Jocelyn Allan saw Haynie in the hallway and introduced herself. Allan was one guy short on her squad and seized the opportunity to fill the last spot. Allan told Haynie he should tryout for cheer, but Haynie was initially hesitant.

“I thought Bryson looked like a strong, athletic kid who was coordinated enough to the do things we’re asking of cheerleaders,” Allan said. “We’re just looking for pure strength and athleticism.”

She pitched him with all the positive things and eventually Haynie decided to go to BYU cheer’s open gym in the summer. At cheer open gym anyone can go and practice stunting with the cheerleaders.

“I came and I tried it out and I absolutely loved it,” Haynie said. “I’ve been hooked ever since.”

While some BYU cheerleaders have extensive cheering backgrounds, others find the sport through unexpected opportunities. But all find challenge and fulfillment in being part of the BYU cheer squad.

Six of the eight male cheerleaders on the squad have never cheered before, like Haynie, but have a background in other sports. The athleticism and dedication Haynie learned from football makes him a key contributor to the cheer squad this year.

Emma Munguia is a sophomore who made the BYU cheer squad last year. Munguia was a gymnast from the time she was little through her freshman year in high school. She got into cheer while recovering from gymnastic injuries in high school.

Munguia had a hip injury and when the BYU sports physician checked it out, he discovered a tear in her labrum.

BYU Cheer performs at Boomshakalaka. The behind-the-scenes effort they make is astounding. (Maddi Driggs)
BYU Cheer performs at Boomshakalaka. The BYU Cheer squad has a co-ed team and an all-girls team that performs separately and together. (Maddi Driggs)

She was told she would need surgery if she was going to have a future in collegiate cheer.

Cheer in Texas didn’t have the standards and morals Munguia wanted. But she couldn’t help but notice the different vibe when she visited a BYU cheer practice her sophomore year in high school.

“It was the little things,” Munguia said. “They said a prayer at the end of practice, they were so supportive of each other and it was nothing like I had ever seen before in cheer.”

Munguia was so impressed with BYU cheer that she made it her goal to make the team. After injuring her hip, however, she was told she would need surgery if she was going to have a future in collegiate cheer. She decided to get the surgery so she could continue to cheer, even if it meant missing out on her freshman year.

“It was more hard emotionally because it was something I wanted,” Munguia said. “But I learned a lot of things about myself and about the Atonement and strengthened a lot more personally than anything I’d ever experienced before.”

The transition to collegiate cheer is a challenge even for experienced, injury-free athletes.

Macey Davis, Carly Mattingly and Kayla Belnap are freshman on the cheer squad this year. All of them have extensive experience cheering but still experienced challenges with the transition.

“I think the one thing we’re not used to is the time commitment,” Mattingly said. “It’s early mornings but you get here and you get so used to it because practice is so fun.”

Mattingly was the only one of the three who did high school cheer. She met Davis and Belnap doing all-stars. Davis and Belnap both attended Corner Canyon High School in Draper but weren’t on the school’s squad.

“The biggest difference between high school and competitive is the stunting,” Davis said. “It’s different because it’s a collegiate level.”

All three girls have taken the adjustments in stride and love being a part of such a great program.

“BYU is a specific case. The atmosphere is already so amazing so adding that to cheering on such a great university with great fans, it’s so much fun,” Belnap said.

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