ST. JOHN | How often does Lake Central senior cheerleader Amy Gerike have to defend herself as an athlete?
"Pretty much on a daily basis," she said. "Guys always say to us that we don't do enough to be considered athletes."
Maybe it's because when they're most often seen, they just so happen to have their "game faces" on.
"That's where we get usually get noticed ... at basketball and football games," Haley Loden said. "A lot of times we're sitting or standing around, talking to each other and waiting for a break in the action.
"But most don't see us at competitions where we get to really show off our tumbling and stunting skills."
At the Indiana Cheer Championships, Nov. 3 at Southport High School, Lake Central won its first state title while placing first in the coed division.
"It's a great honor for us," said Amber Piech, who like fellow senior co-captains Gerike and Loden, has been cheering at Lake Central since she was a freshman.
"It's something we've worked so hard for," said Piech, who is a "lifter" on the team.
Gerike works the base, and Loden is a "flier" -- meaning the one who gets thrown into the air during a typical stunt while relying on teammates to secure a safe landing.
"It's a matter of trust, and I trust them," said Loden, who, nonetheless, has sustained her share of bumps and bruises.
Loden's mother, Joan Loden, has been the head cheerleading coach at Lake Central for more than two decades -- before Haley was born. She took over the position shortly after becoming a math teacher at the school in 1984.
"This is one of my better teams," the elder Loden said. "They're very talented and work well together."
The Indiana Cheer Championships was the second competition in which Lake Central has come out on top this season. At the "Get On Track" competition, Sept. 16 at Purdue University, Lake Central not only won its division, but recorded the highest score of all the teams competing.
Later this winter, the varsity squad will try to defend its Jam Fest Super Nationals title, Jan. 18-20 at Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
On Feb. 22-23, the Indian cheerleaders will compete for the first time at the National Cheerleaders Association Open Nationals in Louisville, Ky.
Assisting Loden is veteran cheerleader coach John Powers, who formerly coached in Illinois at Lake Zurich High School.
"Cheerleading is considered a sport in Illinois," Powers said. "Indiana is a little behind the times, but is starting to catch up."
"But even though cheerleading is not acknowledged by the (Indiana High School Athletic Association), it's part of this school's athletic department," Loden said.
This season Lake Central's varsity squad has a male member, Jeremy Goodale, hence its coed entry at the Indiana Cheer Championships.
"He's the first one I had on the team, and I'm surely not going discourage other guys from coming out," Loden said. "But it's required for all of our cheerleaders to be able to do a standing back tuck."
That's a back flip from the standing position. Not much athleticism required there, huh?