First Guys on Ridge Cheer: An Interview with the Boys and the Coach that Gave the Opportunity


Remi McKim, Contributing Journalist

Jagger Thiel is the first guy on Ridge cheer, soon followed by Logan Diefenderfer, a junior at Ridge and an exchange student.


When I emailed coach Melissa Christensen, the JV coach, about interviewing her and the two guys on cheer, she offered to let me sit in on their Friday practice.


It was amazing to see all of the work that goes into cheering first-hand! The cheerleaders were great, easily lifting flyers into the air and catching them seamlessly. 


I was really impressed and excited to talk to the woman who orchestrates all of the stunts.


It is Christensen’s 5th season with Ridge cheer, although she avidly cheered all through high school and into college. After taking a quick break to focus on being a mom, she eagerly returned to cheer as a coach. 


My first question was obvious: How many guys have tried out for Ridge cheer?


“These are the first two since I have been here, and they are awesome. We’ve got Jagger who is an amazing tumbler, like a level 10 gymnast and he just floats when he tumbles. He is so fun to watch,” Christensen said proudly. “And we have Logan who just recently moved from Japan and he is amazing. His jumps look like he is as light as a feather when he takes off from the ground. Beautiful jumps, catches onto everything super fast. We are really lucky to have two guys this year.” 


To my surprise, Christensen said that the idea to have guys on Ridge cheer had always rattled around in conversation, but nobody had tried out. 

“We have had a couple of tumblers that we tried to get to join our tryout clinics, and it just never came to fruition. So when we started hearing from these two gentlemen, we were like, ‘Yes! We would love that!’”


Christensen’s face shone with pride as she gushed about the two new guys on the team. 


“For the first time ever, we may be competing co-ed for JV this year which is a completely new category for us.”


She explained that the biggest difference for competitions would be the division they would be placed in. The talent of both boys will greatly aid the team for the next competitions.


“It would really help our team and possibly bring us home another National title,” Christensen said. “So that would be great.”


When talking about the dynamic of the group, Christensen emphasized that the change was overwhelmingly positive.


“It’s better! The girls have always been great, but this addition of the two guys to our team adds a different dimension to our dynamic,” Christensen said. “It is fun to watch, and it is great how the girls have just embraced them and it is like they have two brothers now.” 


The cheer team has 20 people, including herself, she mentioned, and there is no room for outsiders. “When we are on this mat, we are family. And they have embraced that and taken these boys in just like family,” Christensen said with a smile. 


The five athletes in each stunt group, she explained, were not made spontaneously.


“It’s based on experience. I don’t like to have a whole stunt group of new teammates and so I don’t always make popular decisions.” Many of the girls on the team are close friends with each other, and it isn’t so easy to separate them, but it must be done. 


“I just have to tell them, trust the process.”


Christensen explained that she had even changed a few flyers for the Friday practice. 


“I like to have at least two skilled teammates in their position, whichever position they may be in, that are experienced and then I can put in two new ones.” 


Christensen explained to me that a front base, while not common, does the same thing as a back base. “They will be in the front of the stunt holding the side and the main bases wrists and helping them push to the front.” 


The JV team has to learn a whooping forty-two cheers, a number my brain couldn’t comprehend. I asked for clarification from coach Melissa.


“We have offense cheers and defense cheers and then we have anytime cheers.” The cheerleaders have to pay attention to the game they are cheering for, calling out the right cheer to do. “I like to have a long list of cheers that they can do anytime, no matter who has the ball,” coach said.


The practices are longer, more stressful, and frustration builds easily at this time if the stunt group isn’t hitting, which means performing correctly. Even after the team gets the routine down, Coach Melissa said she has clean up practices, where the group can practice honing their movements to be sharper, and follow a certain count.


“There’s a lot that goes into comp season, more that goes into comp season than game season.”


Christensen is sure that the JV team will be all ready for Wednesday, the first game of their season and she expressed her excitement for it.


Jagger Thiel is the first ever guy on Ridge Cheer, after more than 25 years of the school being open. He was transparent about his lack of cheer experience. 


“I‘ve never cheered before, I’ve only tumbled. I’ve been tumbling for around 10 years, but stunting and cheering in general is new to me.”


Tumbling, stunting, and cheering are words that get thrown around and I didn’t know the direct differences between the words, so I asked Jagger for how he would define them.


“Both tumbling and stunting are more physical, and you need strength and stuff to do it. And cheering is more about facials and how enthusiastic you are,” Thiel said.


 “If I joined an all-star team I would be very behind, if I was even accepted. I only have experience in tumbling, not stunting, cheering, rallying, etc. This makes it very hard to earn scholarships,” he admitted. “If you were a scout from a college, you would most likely be intrigued by the guy who can stunt with a girl all by themselves, not some scrawny dude in the background who can do a back full.” 


When I asked Jagger about the most challenging part, the answer rolled off his tongue.


“Facials. I always forget about it most when cheering because I’m not that coordinated. Because, in tumbling, you just do it. But with this, you need counts and certain movements and be extra, of course.” 


Although he enjoys many aspects of being ont he team, Jagger said, “The most rewarding thing I guess is just being on it in general, because again I was like the first guy, so it felt nice.”


With cheering at the football games, Jagger said he was excited to incorporate more tumbling aspects into the routine at halftime. Double fulls, whips, backfulls are all skills he has honed when he would only tumble and he is ready to do them again. 


With a little imparting wisdom, Jagger said, “If any other guys wanna try out in the future, go right ahead! It’d be awesome to have more guys.”


The second guy on Ridge Cheer is Logan Diefenderfer, an exchange student who has lived in Japan for the past two years since his dad is in the military. 


Logan, like Jagger, had not had any prior cheer experience.

“I did martial arts so that’s why I’m super flexible.” 

He explained that he tried out to be a mascot and, upon doing a toe-touch, he was  offered a place on that cheer team.


“I enjoy it a lot. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a good group of people to be around.”


When I asked about what most excited him in football games, the halftime show was the first thing out of his mouth. He elaborated by saying it had more stunting and tumbling which was the better aspects, he said.


Logan mentioned that some dances had to be modified for him and Jagger, with some motions changed, acknowledging this was the hardest part of being on the team.


I asked about facials, thinking about how it was the most challenging aspect for Jagger. 


“It’s kind of like personality more-so I think,” Logan answered. “Because people with a more bubbly personality get their facials better.”


Jagger chipped in, saying:

“For me, it’s not hard. It’s just that I don’t like the way I look,” Jagger quipped.


Logan agreed, saying that the photos he had seen of himself mid cheering were weird to look at. 


Look out for Jagger and Logan at the JV and Freshman games! JV cheers for the team who has home games each week.