The Lehigh cheerleading team has been preparing for the Lehigh-Lafayette football game while balancing both football and basketball season.
Captain Sara Menand, ‘25, said there is more pressure for the team to perform well for the Le-Laf game because there is more attention on this game than the other games in the season.
Collette Kissell, ‘25, said the game attracts a large number of alumni, as well as students.
“Everything that all the alumni know and remember and expect to be the exact same as when they graduated just adds a little bit more pressure because you know those people are coming back,” Menand said.
Kissell said Le-Laf reinforces Lehigh traditions.
“Something I’ve learned from the cheerleading team is that everything we do, every dance we do, has tradition behind it,” Kissell said. “We do it because that’s just the way it was in the past.”
One tradition the team participates in is Eco-flame, the Marching 97’s traditional march through campus.
In the week leading up to Saturday’s football game, Lehigh’s marching band performs traditional Lehigh fight songs as they parade through campus, including classes in session, dining halls and residential buildings.
The event earned its name after Rich Aaronson, an economics professor in the 1970s, asked the band to perform in his ECO 001 class.
Members of the cheer team will join the marching band, performing traditional Lehigh fight songs on their many stops around campus during Le-Laf week.
Kissell said the cheerleaders dance alongside the band to Lehigh’s fight song “GRL^2” during Eco-flame.
“Cheerleading has trends and (follows) what’s popular going on, and so (cheers) cater toward that, but our dances are one thing that never changes,” Kissell said.
Menand said Eco-flame is the team’s biggest tradition during the week.
“You really want to make sure you keep all the traditions alive,” Menand said.
Blair Dickinson, ‘26, said the cheerleaders also attend the tailgate prior to every game during the football season.
Because alumni and non-student attendees don’t get to experience Eco-flame during the week at Lehigh, Menand said before the Le-Laf game, the team tries to perform for as many tailgates as possible so attendees get a sense of the team’s Eco-flame activity.
She said other traditions include ringing a bell for each point the football team scores, doing a special dance for touchdowns and performing certain songs, such as “Goblet,” “Rearing Tearing,” “Lehigh will shine” and “Fight.”
The cheerleading team typically has 16 to 18 members at a time. Menand said having multiples of four are best, as each stunt group is made up of four people.
Tryouts take place in the spring, and anyone ranging from high school seniors that will be attending Lehigh to current students can try out.
Kissell said tryouts are usually a two day process. On the first day, attendees learn the performance material and then try out on the second day.
Kissell said the team markets its tryout process through the Lehigh cheerleading Instagram, which is where a majority of members find out about the team.
Dickinson said she flew up from Houston, Texas, to try out in person since it was the same weekend as Lehigh Fest for admitted students, although there was also a virtual option to try out at the time.
Menand said current members are required to try out again each year.
She said the team will also hold fall tryouts if necessary, such as if they want more people on the team or need specific positions, such as bases or flyers.
The team practices twice a week for about two hours each practice.
Dickinson said practices consist of warming up and going over cheers, band dances and formations. She said they also work on stunts and pyramids if they have the time.
She said the team has helped her find a community at Lehigh. When Dickinson first came to the university, she said she did not know anyone, and her teammates were the first people she got to know.
At tryouts, she said she was immediately welcomed by the older students. Dickinson said the team is not competitive with one another, and they hope for everyone to do their best and encourage one another.
“It felt like we’re in this together, and want to make each other better instead of just trying to focus on seniority,” Dickinson said.
Before the academic year began, Dickinson said she already felt comfortable and safe at Lehigh. She said she has felt welcomed on campus ever since.
Since the team is smaller than most other sports teams, Dickinson said they are generally overlooked.
She said the audience at Lehigh basketball and football games would definitely notice if they were not present at games.
“I think that our presence, whether or not it goes without notice, is definitely significant at all the games,” Dickinson said.
Leading up to Le-Laf, Kissell said team members are more cognizant of the upcoming game at practices.
“We’ve been conditioned since the beginning of the season to do the dances, it’s nothing different,” Kissell said. “It’s just understanding what’s going to happen that week with what the schedule is going to be.”
Dickinson said she looks forward to participating in her first Le-Laf game.
“I’m super excited, because I know it’s the game that everyone looks forward to,” she said. “I think it’ll just be really cool to have a big student section. … So I think that’ll be really fun and I think the energy will definitely lift us up and lift everyone else up.”
She said she’s looking forward to seeing a big turnout and watching for everyone to have fun supporting the football team.
Thank you for this article. Highly informative and loved the link to the Eco Flame so I could hear those great songs again. Good luck in your studies and Go Lehigh!