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Skyview High cheerleaders

PAUL RUHTER/Gazette Staff

Lakota Pugliese stands with Skyview High's Falcon mascot (Mitch Lagge) during a recent football game at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium.

They call it the leapfrog and it's their signature move.

“They're clowns,” Brandy Getchell, the cheer coach for Laurel High, said with a laugh as she describes the move. “They lighten the mood.”

Tyler Frank and Roy Parker, both seniors, are cheerleaders at Laurel High and the only boys on the squad. They're known for leapfrogging - that is, jumping over each other's backs - at football games to get the crowd laughing and energized.

“We were just messing around and people liked it,” Parker explained.

The move was born of boredom at a game earlier in the school year. On cheer squads, male cheerleaders are used to hoist, support and flip the girls as they do their stunts. When the girls are standing and cheering, the boys are left with little to do. So in Frank's and Parker's case, they come up with stuff like the leapfrog.

It's part of the reason cheer coaches like having boys on the squad. But mostly, it's a matter of size.

“For stunting purposes they add a lot of strength,” Getchell said.

It's the reason Tracy Kangas, coach of Skyview High's cheer squad - the only other high school in the area with male cheerleaders - likes having the boys. With the added strength and stature her team is able to do more elaborate stunts.

Skyview has a long history with male cheerleaders. Two of the team's graduating seniors last year went on to cheer for Montana State University Billings. Both Skyview and Laurel are tied into MSUB's program - one of the MSUB assistant cheer coaches travels to Laurel to help train Parker and Frank.

Assistant Skyview Coach Jessica Graham is a fan of having the guys on the team. She believes a mixed-company cheerleading squad works better.

“Working with guys in a serious environment, it helps them (the girls) to keep on task better,” Graham said.

Alli Stoltz, a sophomore on Skyview's squad, described it another way.

“It makes the drama go away,” she said.

The guys usually end up being comic relief - whether they try to or not- and that keeps team members from taking themselves too seriously, she said.

“We had four my first year,” said Brianna Savaria, a senior on the squad. “They're a big help. Any addition to the team is a good help.”

Mitch Lagge, a sophomore on the Skyview team, is a male cheerleader for the first time this year. He initially tried out for school mascot and was successful. As mascot, he accompanied the girls to cheer camp over the summer and learned the stunts.

Naturally, Kangas put him on the squad.

“In the beginning it was super awkward,” he said, smiling.

Shortly after, Lagge recruited his friend Lakota Pugliese to the squad and together they've eased into their roles. Lagge describes himself as something of a class clown and sees himself as a good fit on the squad. But since he broke his arm longboarding, much of the recent heavy lifting has fallen to Pugliese.

“People don't see me as outgoing until they get to know me,” he said. Finding his inner performer has taken some time.

All four guys said when they first joined their respective squads they encountered some teasing from classmates and friends.

“At first they were a little skeptical,” Parker said.

Frank tells friends, “It's something you got to try yourself to understand.”

Parker and Frank, like Lagge and Pugliese at Skyview, are cheerleading for the first time this year. And both love it. Frank said nothing compares to hearing the crowd cheer and laugh at the moves he and Parker have created.

“Like it's your birthday, that's what it feels like,” he said.

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.