I’m standing on the red track. I can smell hot dogs charring on the grill in the concession stand. The air around me is chilly and is nipping at my skin through my long sleeved thermal. The sky is black with the fall of a clear November night but the big, bright lights make it easy to see everyone and everything. Directly ahead of me are the metal bleachers, filled to capacity with hundreds of familiar and unfamiliar faces. From teachers to classmates to family members to strangers, everyone is covered in as much orange and black as they could find in their closets. They’re all talking and shouting and laughing and cheering, while to their left the marching band starts to play another song. On either side of me are my teammates: girls I’ve come to know as some of my best friends, girls I’ve built bonds with that I know can never be broken. Behind me is the team, the reason we’re all here. I can hear them shouting things at each other on the sidelines. It doesn’t matter who I look at, though, because I know we are all there, in that moment, for the same reason, for one sole purpose.
I’ve been a cheerleader for as long as I can remember. I’ve been to countless games, practices, and competitions, but through it all, I’ve learned that there is nothing that quite compares to a high school football game under the lights on a Friday night. It’s a unique atmosphere where there is an air of utter togetherness and an energy that I’ve never found anywhere else. It is that ambience that brings me the overwhelming feeling of elation that I wish I could never let go of. My teammates are my best friends and they make my experiences even better. I am never as content anywhere else as I am when I’m standing on the sidelines, cheering on our team, win or lose, alongside the crowd.There was one game at the beginning of my senior year cheer season I’ll never forget. It was the second game of the year and we’d just come off the thirteenth season in a row with a losing record. Our spirits were low because our first game was a loss, but people came out to support us anyway. After a touchdown in the first quarter, the atmosphere of the game took a complete turn. The energy exploded: everyone was excited and on their feet. Every touchdown after, the cheerleaders did push-ups corresponding with the number of points our team had on the board. By the end of the game, we were up thirty-three to nothing and had done over a hundred push-ups in total. Upon the last touchdown, we were all exhausted and laughing, saying we couldn’t do anymore. The marching band came down from the stands and joined us on the sidelines. They did push ups with us as the crowd counted off all forty. It was a game that perfectly encapsulates that feeling of togetherness that I haven’t found anywhere else. It is games like that that I wish to never forget. It is games like that where I felt unlike I have anywhere else. It is at games like that that I was completely and utterly content.