Flying Into Action: An Interview With Erica Kwak

Senior Erica Kwak reflects on her experience with the Stuyvesant Cheerleading team.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Name: Erica Kwak

Grade: Senior

Height: 5’3”

Hair Color: Black

Eye Color: Brown

Date of Birth: September 4, 2003

1. How long have you been on the Stuyvesant cheerleading team?

Three years.

2. What inspired you to join the cheerleading team in freshman year?

I wanted to go to tryouts after I found out some of my friends were going to. I didn’t have any friends outside of the ones from my middle school, so I saw cheer as an opportunity to meet new people. Going to the Clubs & Pubs Fair and seeing some of the stuff they do on the team really inspired me to try out, because I wanted to do cool things in the air and compete.

3. What does a typical practice look like? What types of drills, warmups, or conditioning do you do with your team?

We start off our practices stretching in a circle to loosen up our muscles. As our warmup, we then do bear crawls, lunges, and squats in a line down the mats. We then get into our stunt groups, and after doing basic drills as a team, we focus on our individual groups and practice whatever skills or [routines] we need to work on. Sometimes at the end, we showcase what we achieved that practice. Then we condition for a bit. We either do more down-the-mats, or we get into rows and do exercises like planks, leg circles, jumping jacks, etc. Practices always vary, but that’s what an ideal one looks like.

4. What is the biggest challenge that you have faced while cheerleading?

I fractured my ankle during my sophomore year. I was really bummed out, because after months of practicing, I had to be taken out of all the routines and couldn’t cheer at football games or compete. Not long after, our former coach kept pressuring me to come back to practices after a lot of people had quit, so I ended up going against my doctor’s orders and practiced on a not completely healed ankle. We didn’t even end up going to Nationals, so the ankle soreness was for nothing.

5. What position do you serve as on the team? What skills or techniques are involved?

I’m a flyer, aka the person you see getting thrown in the air and stuff. Flyers have to “stay tight,” meaning we have to squeeze our entire body to maintain our balance and also to lift some of our weight to make the bases and backs’ jobs easier. It’s scary at first, since there’s a lot of risk involved, but over time you learn that your stunts will never hit if you don’t trust your stunt group.

6. What’s your favorite or proudest moment with the Stuyvesant cheerleading team?

When we took home the Top Banana at camp in 2019. The Top Banana is this big inflatable banana that they give to the most spirited team each day at camp, and whichever team gets it the last day takes it home. It sounds stupid, but it’s considered a really great achievement and honor to receive the banana. After two consecutive summers of taking it home, there was a lot of pressure to continue the streak. It really took us by surprise when they announced our team, because we had a rough couple of days and didn’t expect it at all. Everyone was crying, and it was one of the most rewarding moments after a long summer of sweaty, exhausting practices.

7. Who is/was your funniest teammate?

Helen Yang! She graduated in 2020, but she never failed to make us laugh, and the team wouldn’t have been the same without her positive energy.

Favorite food: Ramen

Favorite class: I really enjoyed Women’s Voices, even though I didn’t participate much and was half asleep a lot of the time. The readings and discussions were always really interesting and thought-provoking. It made me so much more aware of the heteronormativity in our society and how that’s constantly being reflected in the media (like video games, commercials, etc.). Overall, I recommend everyone to take the course because you’ll definitely feel enlightened by the end of the semester.

Favorite movie(s) or TV show(s): “Rick and Morty”

Other hobbies: I love painting