Pom poms and pep tunes

Collins, Crist do double duty at football games as members of cheer squad, marching band


Dave Winter

As her fellow flute players Taelisen Hutson and Claire De Silva-Yost look ahead with intent focus, Crist giggles up a storm out on the field during the marching show. She told us that in this moment, the cheerleading team was yelling especially loud for her and making funny faces from the sideline, making it impossible for her to keep a straight face. Hutson stated that she really enjoys having Crist as a part of her section in band. “Having (Crist) on the field makes each performance so much better because her energy boosts everyone else’s,” Hutson said. “It must be hard trying to balance both band and cheer, but cheering her on is one of the best parts about football games.”

Madelynn Niles, staff reporter

Contrary to what Taylor Swift has to say, these two girls wear both short skirts and sneakers, are cheer (captains) and on the bleachers. Doubling their experience under the Friday night lights, senior Ani Collins and junior Veronica Crist take part in both the McCallum marching band, playing snare drum and flute respectively, and cheer program—a double duty that is both physically and mentally demanding. From before the sun rises for early morning band rehearsal until just before it sets for evening cheer practice, Collins and Crist work and rehearse at MAC before they can go home to begin their homework—all to wake back up and do it again the next day.

While these average school days for the girls are long, nothing compares to football game days, especially rivalry games that also require a pep rally performance. Collins said she enjoys pep rallies “because the band can see what I’ve been missing rehearsal for,” a common consequence of the overlapping schedules. Later that same evening, they get several more opportunities to show both of their groups the other side of their lives.

“Being able to cheer on the team on the field and see everything and then being on the field with band and participating feels so good … You’re always participating—there’s really no down time. It’s a lot of fun,” Crist said. “But yeah, I’m exhausted afterwards.”

Balancing school with the two extracurriculars could seem a daunting task, but both Collins and Crist have ways of managing their workload without getting overwhelmed. Collins said that she has a specific system for handling homework.

While I’m on the band field during halftime, it’s fun to see everybody being like ‘Oh my God, you’re in both? How?!’

— Veronica Crist

“I stay up pretty late doing (homework), and if I don’t finish, I have an off period first, so I’ll go home after band rehearsal and then go to cheer class,” she said. “Dang, saying it all makes me realize how busy I am.”

Crist has a slightly different approach to managing workload and stress.

“Right after school I start my homework, and most days on Sundays I spend my whole day doing work,” she said. “And I write a lot of the time in my journal because I like to document these moments … if I’m ever close to having a mental breakdown or something, or feeling super overwhelmed, I’ll also film myself just ranting or talking about my day so that I can go back in five years and laugh at myself.”

Despite the hectic schedules and challenges, both girls agreed that the reward of participating in both activities makes the heavier workload totally worth it.

“I feel a sense of community with everybody, and I get to learn everybody, and it’s just a lot of fun to be able to be in both,” Crist said. “Everybody in band’s like ‘Oh my God, my friend’s a cheerleader!’ Everybody knows me and cheers me on.”

Collins said that it really clicks with her lifestyle. “I’m in soccer, cheer, and band, but I know how to manage my time and take care of my body. … It’s super fun to be busy, in my opinion. I’m never sure what to do with my free time so I love staying active.”

Caleb Melville
Collins strikes a pose as part of the 2019 marching show, “Forever in Stone,” at the LBJ football game on Sept. 19 . Both girls get “no down time” at the games, as Crist puts it, because of the quick switches between cheer and band performances.

Band director Carol Nelson also feels that juggling both activities works out well for the girls: “I think it’s great. I think that they represent McCallum. … I’m proud of them. Of course, it can be a little hectic because the demands of both groups are high, but they’re able to work it out, and they both perform well in both fields,” she said. “Veronica has always been sweet and always has a great attitude… and I think of Ani as extremely capable and talented; she always does her best.”

Whether it be a crazy stunt or a new marching technique, Crist and Collins approach every challenge with the mentality of pushing through and pushing hard.

“Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed,” Collins said, “but I just try to keep in mind that it’s only the beginning, and I’ll get the hang of it soon.”

Crist agreed that mindset is key to this lifestyle.

“I just calm myself down by breathing in,” she said, “and knowing that I just have to continue.”

And so they continue, tackling life with a pom pom in one hand, and a music binder in the other.