Sideline Report with Audrie from Kansas

ROCK CHALK…JAYHAWK! My name is Audrie Estrada and I’m a sophomore on the University of Kansas cheerleading squad. Welcome to GAME DAY at Kivisto Field inside Memorial Stadium!

Saturday, September 6th was the football home opener and Lawrence, Kansas was a beautiful 74 degrees. Kickoff for the Jayhawks was at 6:00 pm against the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO), and the aroma around the stadium was nothing but tailgate grilling.

The University of Kansas is rich in history and tradition. Did you know that Memorial Stadium was the first stadium recognized on a college campus west of the Mississippi River? The stadium’s name is also dedicated to University of Kansas students who fought and lost their lives in World War I. At the University of Kansas we take pride in our Jayhawk family and I am so excited to take you behind the scenes of game day, the Jayhawk way!

TAILGATING ON HISTORIC CAMPANILE HILL 

Before each game, the KU cheerleaders, mascots and Rock Chalk dancers tailgate together with our families on the beautiful and historic Campanile Hill. This is the perfect spot to gather. I arrived at the stadium about 3.5 hours prior to game time. Our normal reporting time is 2.5 hours before the game begins, so the first hour allowed me time to visit with my family and eat.

MINGLING WITH THE FANS

Part of my role as a KU cheerleader is to ensure that our alumni and guests have the best game day experience possible. Our visitors and alumni come to town not only for the game but to visit our beautiful campus, mingle with campus organizations and, of course, to tailgate. We make sure that their experience is enjoyable by taking photos and answering any questions they may have.

Around 4:00 pm, our coaches gathered us to touch base. From that point, we went off to our assigned areas around the stadium. For this game, my partner Cedric (better known as THOR) and I were assigned to the Hawk Fun Zone with our teammates Gavin and Heather. The Fun Zone is a family-friendly area with  inflatables, face painting and other fun activities. Cedric and I took photos, stunted and signed a few autographs for fans. Crowd mingling gives my teammates and I the opportunity to show our Jayhawk fans how much we appreciate them and their support of KU athletics and our university.

Another tradition happens 60 minutes before kickoff when the Marching Jayhawks come down the hill to perform fight songs for the crowd.

WARM UP

To warm up, we stretch, stunt with our partners, throw baskets, tumble on the field and meet as a group to discuss logistics of the game. Then we practice all of our pyramids and timeouts. After that, we head over to specific gates on the field to await the Marching Jayhawks. It’s a pretty amazing sight to see the hundreds of band members come pouring out of the stands, running down the steps past us and the crowd and onto the field!

PREGAME

This is by far my FAVORITE part of the game! KU has five fight songs plus the well-known “ROCK CHALK” chant. Everyone should experience hearing and seeing it for themselves at least once in their lifetime.

“Rock Chalk” is one of the most notable chants in the country. It evolved from a cheer that a chemistry professor, E.H.S. Bailey, created for the KU Science Club in 1886. Bailey’s version was “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU,” repeated three times. The “rahs” were later changed to “Rock Chalk” because of the abundance of limestone (which chalk is made from) on Mount Oread, site of the Lawrence campus. The cheer is so well known that President Teddy Roosevelt pronounced it the greatest college chant he’d ever heard!

Prior to kickoff, teams Jay and Hawk are on opposite sides of the field to get the crowd going with a little ROCK CHALK…JAYHAWK! It’s an amazing sound to hear the words echo through our stadium. For this game, Cedric and I were holding the “Rock Chalk” sign and teammates Kelly and Chase were holding “Jayhawk” on the opposite side of the stadium.

GAME TIME

After running the Hawks out on the field, each team takes their sideline and prepares for kickoff. My squad did an AWESOME job this game! The first half, our football team was playing great, so it was easy getting the fans on their feet to make noise. Our first score was a field goal 3 minutes into the game, so we “Waved the Wheat,” which is another fantastic KU tradition. During “Wave the Wheat,” Jayhawks in the stadium lift their arms over their heads and slowly wave them back and forth like Kansas wheat swaying in the wind.

With 11:12 left in the first quarter, the Hawks scored our first touchdown! After we “Waved the Wheat” with the fans, 6 of our guys ran our famous K-A-N-S-A-S flags the entire quarter mile around the stadium. It’s pretty tiring, especially when it’s windy, but it’s also a lot of fun running the flags with pride and high-fiving the kids and students in the front row.

Meanwhile, the other cheerleaders and I do running Fulls in the end zone and then ripple Standing Tucks. After that, we spirit back to our sideline to perform our main fight song, “I’m a Jayhawk.”

My squad did an amazing job with all of our skills. We even had our youngest fans cheering along with us and wanting to join us on the field! Having that type of impact on people is incredible. I have to give a HUGE shout-out to my ROCK STAR partner of two years, Cedric. I couldn’t have done it without him!

POST-GAME

Cheering on the Jayhawks for four quarters is an indescribable feeling. It isn’t until the game has ended that you realize how much work has been put into keeping the crowd energized for the team. For us, the 2014 season began with a victory; the Jayhawks beat the Redhawks 34-28!

As with any college cheerleader, there is no greater feeling than to put on your college uniform on game day. For me, wearing the letters KU is an honor. Win or lose, rain or shine, the KU Spirit Squad will always be here for our guys and gals of crimson and blue. One Team, One Chant!

Thank you for letting me share my game day experience with you. As we here in Lawrence, Kansas say, “ROCK CHALK, JAYHAWK, KU!”

-Audrie Estrada
photos by: Corey Stone, KU Cheer Coach