Contributed photo
                                L-r, back row: Ian Volk, Stella McCauley, Aiden Haines, Bella Valdez, Olivia Monin, Emily Walters, Andrew Rude. Middle row: Ella Flynn, Melanie Quiroz, Salud Soto, Layla Embler. Front Row: Captains Arlyn Sanabria and Jordyn McCutcheon.

Contributed photo L-r, back row: Ian Volk, Stella McCauley, Aiden Haines, Bella Valdez, Olivia Monin, Emily Walters, Andrew Rude. Middle row: Ella Flynn, Melanie Quiroz, Salud Soto, Layla Embler. Front Row: Captains Arlyn Sanabria and Jordyn McCutcheon.

Mixed-gender Wolverines cheer squad brings the spirit | Sports preview

With 13 cheerleaders, including two boys, the Friday Harbor High School fall squad has more spirit than ever.

“I’m just super excited about this season; it’s going to be different than ever,” said coach Stacey Rude. “I have more cheerleaders [and] two male cheerleaders. It’s just really going to be fun.”

Rude, who has coached the squad for about six years, has never had more than 10 cheerleaders during one season. The Friday Harbor class-of-1990 graduate also can’t recall a season with male cheerleaders since she’s been involved in the team, even as a cheerleader herself in the 80s.

“I’m excited about … starting something new and opening it up for more people to be involved,” she said.

Her son Andrew Rude and his friend Ian Volk are trading in their football gear for cheer uniforms and joining the squad’s 11 girls. At about 6 feet, 2 inches, Andrew Rude has always been able to do the splits, said his mom.

“He always joked with me that one day he would come out for cheerleading, and I never took him seriously,” she said. “[The boys] are doing a fantastic job.”

Captains Arlyn Sanabria and Jordyn McCutcheon will lead the squad through basketball’s 21 games this season, as well as learning roughly 60 cheers, many of which are passed down from previous squads and altered as new members join. For about seven cheerleaders, this will be their first year learning and performing routines.

During the halftime of the Dec. 21 game against rival Orcas Island Viking, the squad is planning a large dance routine, performing more stunts than ever before. The guys will be able to throw more girls in the air and catch them.

In general, fall cheerleading, said Rude, tends to have more eyes on the squad.

“In basketball, they sit in the bleachers, so we’ve got more of a captive audience,” she said. “They tend to participate more with the cheerleaders than they do for football.”

Despite the different makeup of this year’s squad, Rude said the goal is the same as ever.

“My focus for cheerleading always has been to uplift young women,” she said. “If I can throw some young men into that mix, it’s pretty cool.”