Kristin Mountain used to be a “flyer” – one of those 100-pound cheerleaders who get tossed through the air. Today she’s more like a flight instructor/air traffic controller, making sure a new generation of cheerleaders execute safe takeoffs and landings.
“I’m out on the floor 95 percent of the time,” said Mountain, who owns Cheer Fusion in Andover.
Mountain opened Cheer Fusion almost 10 years ago when she was 22 years old. She had cheered at Barton Community College and Wichita State University, then coached at Extreme Athletics, which she said was the area’s first competitive cheerleading competition.
She didn’t set out to be cheerleader herself. A native of New York, she played soccer and field hockey before her family moved to Wichita during her sophomore year of high school.
“Everybody was a cheerleader, and they begged me to try out,” she said.
Mountain refers to her students as athletes and said competitive cheerleading is as physically demanding as most sports, despite what the uninformed might think.
“If someone comes to a (cheerleading) competition and sees what the athletes do, it changes their mind pretty quickly,” she said.
About 185 kids between the ages of 3 and 18 train at Cheer Fusion, which is located in a 9,000-square-foot building fitted with a spring floor, trampoline and more. Many of those students cheer for their schools, and the gym also fields 10 competitive cheering squads. Tryouts are held in April. After months of practice, the season runs from November through March, with the teams traveling to Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Dallas for most competitions.
“As far as competitive cheering, basically what the athletes work on is tumbling, stunting, pyramids, the basket toss – where we throw the girls up in the air – dance and choreography,” she said. “We combine all of that in a routine that’s two minutes and 30 seconds long, and that’s what they travel around and compete with all through the season.”
Recently, one of the gym’s junior-level teams scored the best finish in Cheer Fusion’s history at the National Cheerleaders Association competition in Dallas, beating 10 other teams in its division. Mountain said the team’s youngest members serve as flyers on that squad, while older members perform pyramids and other stunts that require more strength.
With two young children of her own, Mountain said her days as a flyer are behind her. But she still loves being out on the floor with her athletes.
“When I was in high school I was coached by people I still look up to,” Mountain said. “I just want to be that role model.”