Linebacker to yell leader: Abbott is 'just having fun'

Sports reporter

Cory Abbott knows what he is doing won't be accepted by everyone.

He also doesn't care.

The freshman is the first yell leader on the Hillsboro High School cheer squad since the 1991-92 school year.

That doesn't mean much to him however, because it's something he enjoys.

"My sister did it for three years, and I just thought it was a good idea," Abbott said. "If it's something you like, you just do it."

Something else he likes is football, so Abbott played this past year as an offensive lineman and linebacker.

They are two contrasting sports in most peoples' minds, he admits.

"I just have fun, I don't care what people say," Abbott said.

He also said people constantly tell him they can't believe he actually is doing it.

"Some people give me [a hard time]," he said, "but I'm adjusting pretty well."

HHS cheer sponsor Valerie Duerksen agrees.

"Honestly I can say I had no expectations good, bad, or indifferent," she said. "But it's been fine. He's really learned a lot, and has a great voice. He's jumping awesome."

But Abbott isn't the only one having to adjust.

Having a yell leader on the team is different for the current cheerleaders as well.

"You should have seen their eyes widen when I walked into tryouts," Abbott said.

Ashley Moss, one of four seniors on the squad, said the girls have to watch what they are saying sometimes because they aren't used to a male always being around.

Moss and the other cheerleaders have no problem with Abbott on the team, but said in the beginning other students weren't sure what to make of it.

"The whole school has had to adjust," she said.

Senior cheerleader Meghan Jost added: "The school was skeptical, but he fits in well."

Cory's mom Pam, said she was taken aback when he first told her he was going to try out.

"It was a shock," she said. "But when he says he is going to do something, he's serious."

Pam said Cory's older sister Stephanie, a senior at HHS and fall-season cheerleader, was surprised as well.

"She was like, 'Are you kidding me?' But she is proud of him," Pam said.

One of a kind

So far this season during basketball games Abbott, the yell leader, has, well, yelled, more than anything.

He participates in a few stunts called the "flying fish" and "shoulder sit," while working on another called the "elevator."

Still, the most important job of a yell leader, Abbott said, is to yell, clap, and keep a rhythm during cheers.

At one point, Abbott wasn't going to be the only Trojan male keeping a beat at the basketball games.

A dozen or so guys at HHS said they were going to tryout for the squad.

"I'm the only one that showed up," he said.

Abbott has two male friends on the Goessel High School squad. One is a yell leader who is ineligible to compete this semester, and the other is a mascot.

"One of them asked me, 'Are you really going to do this,' and I said 'Yeah," so he did too," Abbott said.

But another friend from Hillsboro, whom he did not name, was thinking about trying out for the squad, but Abbott said his parents would not have let him.

"There's too much testosterone in the family," he said. "They are really into football."

Working hard

But while many consider cheering a female activity, the first cheer squad originated in 1898 at the University of Minnesota and consisted of all males.

Famous former yell leaders include former United States presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, actors Samuel L. Jackson and Steve Martin, and former TV producer Aaron Spelling, among others.

So in reality, today's nearly all-female squads are much different than the originals.

Abbott isn't out to try and prove anything to anyone, except himself.

He knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it had nothing to do with what people thought, or who was supposed to cheer.

Practice has been a challenge, and Abbott said that anyone has to be in "healthy shape" to be a yell or cheerleader.

"I'm pretty sore," he said about a week after the season started. "It's similar to other sports."

Flexibility, stamina, and pacing yourself are all important in cheering and other sports such as football, wrestling, and basketball Abbott said.

But he also knows he doesn't have to justify anything.

"All that matters is what you care about," he said.

Right now for Abbott, that is working on becoming a better yell leader every day for HHS, something he is planning on doing for at least the next four years.

"He gets a lot of questions from peers," senior cheerleader Rachelle Goldsby said. "But he hasn't changed at all."