The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Japanese visitors get into spirit of football
Spotsylvania High School’s football team got some extra support when it played at King George High School’s homecoming game on Friday night.
In addition to their own cheer squad rooting for them, the Knights had eight middle-school cheerleaders from Tokyo, Japan, cheering them on from the stands, as the girls attended their first football game.
The middle-schoolers were visiting the United States to participate in the Washington Redskins’ Spirit Explosion halftime show, which brought together more than 200 young cheerleaders at FedEx Field in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Spotsylvania High’s cheer squad also performed in Sunday’s halftime show, its fourth appearance in the annual Spirit Explosion event.
When Spotsylvania cheer coach Keli Harold received an email from the director of the Redskins cheerleaders, Stephanie Jojokian, about the visiting Japanese cheerleaders, she invited them to the King George game.
“I thought it’d be cool for them to come down and experience an American football game,” said Harold.
After a day packed with seeing the sights in Washington, the visitors braved three hours of Friday evening traffic to take part in a quintessential piece of American culture: a high school homecoming game.
The Spotsylvania cheer captains greeted the visitors and provided them with red pompoms to complement the pink ones the Spotsylvania squad wields for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Japanese cheerleaders were accompanied by Maki Nakayama, a former ’Skins cheerleader who started the cheerleading school the girls attend.
“I thought it was a great chance for them to feel the energy [at American football games],” said Nakayama.
The girls were amazed by the enthusiasm of the crowd. In Japan, crowds are usually much more reserved, and the cheerleaders have to work much harder.
“We Japanese are a shy and humble [culture],” Nakayama explained.
On Saturday, the Japanese cheerleaders and the Spotsylvania squad, along with the rest of the performers in Sunday’s halftime show, flocked to the parking lot at FedEx Field to learn and rehearse the routine. The weekend culminated in the performance Sunday in front of more than 90,000 fans. The Japanese cheerleaders returned home on Monday.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Jodi Michniewicz, a Spotsylvania High senior, said of performing at the game.
It was also a big moment for her coach, Harold.
“I’m always taken aback when I step on the field,” said Harold. “It’s so big.”
Bridget Balch: 540/374-5417