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TITLE: Jordan's Cheer
By Kristina Adams

I am ultimately submitting this piece to a writng competition. I like how it's turned out, but the piece is right up to the limit of how long it should be. If you decide to critique this writing, could you tell me what part could possibly be cut or revised? Thank you so much for your help! The writing is due by 12/1.
Jordan pushed her curly hair off her forehead and gazed out of the window as her math teacher’s droning voice faded off into the backdrop of her imagination. His droning voice turned into the roar of the football crowd as Jordan joined her fellow cheerleaders in supporting the football team with perfectly executed jumps and cheers.

As the captain of the football team, Craig Stanford, ran off the field after scoring a touchdown, he caught Jordan’s eye and gave her a special smile and wave. As if the crowd had caught the spirit of Craig’s enthusiasm of Jordan and her spectacular cheering skills, they started chanting, “Jor-dan, JOR-dan, JOR-DAN!”

“JORDAN!” Mr. Hill’s voice jerked Jordan out of her daydream, and her eyes focused on the blue and gray striped tie of her teacher. As her eyes traveled slowly up the length of his tie to Mr. Hill’s frowning face, the snickering of her classmates increased in volume.

“Are you ready to join us, Jordan? You wouldn’t happen to know the answer to the square root of fifty-five, would you? Didn’t think so! Wake up and pay attention, Jordan!”

Humiliated beyond belief, and not wanting to deal with any more of Mr. Hill’s harsh sarcasm, Jordan did her best to concentrate on the rest of the lesson. She couldn’t help the leap of her heart, however, as she thought about practicing her cheers with Christy after school; Jordan was trying out for cheerleading in two weeks.

The bell for class and school to be over interrupted Jordan’s thoughts. She bolted out of her seat, dodging other hurrying students in the hall as she maneuvered her way to her locker. Once there, she began vaguely snatching books she might need for homework and plopping the books into her backpack. Jordan’s best friend, Christy, who was already on the cheerleading squad, arrived at their shared locker, and the girls’ eyes locked in excitement.

“Are you ready?!” Christy asked.

“Yep!” was Jordan’s excited answer.

As they walked out to Christy’s car, fellow students greeted both girls. Some of their closer friends called out, “Good luck with the cheers, girls!”

Their friends knew how much Jordan had missed Christy the past cheering season. Jordan had had no interest in trying out last spring, but that was before she realized how much she’d miss her friend every weekend there was a football or basketball game. Since the girls were juniors, the upcoming tryouts were Jordan’s last chance to be a cheerleader.

At Jordan’s house, the girls faced each other, and Jordan tried to quell her feelings of doubt about her cheering skills. She was so nervous, her coordination suffered and she kept making mistakes. At one point, Jordan’s mistakes became so prevalent, Christy burst out in frustration, “Geez, Jordan, it’s a good thing we’ll be on the same squad! I’m going to have to give you some extra coaching!”

They continued working on basic skills, such as locking elbows, keeping arms and legs in crisp movements, making sure Jordan’s voice was in staccato rhythm and lastly, making sure her fingers were together and stiff when clapping. After a couple of hours, both girls were exhausted, but progress had been made.

Jordan finally had the moves memorized, and she felt a lot more confident. Day after day, almost obsessively, she would go to her room and practice. She even set up her stuffed animals to simulate a real audience, in order for some of her tryout jitters to go away.

Finally, the day of tryouts arrived. It was difficult for Jordan to concentrate in classes, but she managed to function appropriately, even in Mr. Hill’s class. Classes finally ended, and Jordan made her way to the auxiliary gym.

Once there, Jordan pulled Christy aside to practice the cheer. Jordan matched Christy, move for move, yell for yell. At the completion of the cheer, Christy threw her arms around Jordan’s neck in pure elation. As the girls jumped around, hugging, Christy exclaimed, “Wow, Jordan, that was SO great! You’ll make the team for sure!”

Feeling more relaxed, Jordan was able to chat casually with the other cheerleader hopefuls as the hallway outside the gym began to fill up. With five minutes before tryout time, whispers began circulating that the judges were seated. Jordan had to see who they were, cracking open the door to get a quick peek.

There was a physical education teacher, the dance team’s coach and captain, and the football cheer coach and captain. The sixth seat was empty, but just as the door inched shut, Jordan caught a glimpse of Craig Stanford slipping into the empty seat.

CRAIG STANFORD! The captain of the football team! Suddenly, all of Jordan’s confidence leaked out of her. Desperately, Jordan dragged Christy and a mutual friend, Cassie (who was also trying out for the first time), to a relatively quiet corner to practice once more. Both cheer hopefuls closed their eyes, took deep calming breaths, focused forward, and…

“Ready, OK!”

“Let’s go, Tigers!”

“We will…

“OOOF!” Jordan’s right fist connected with Cassie’s left fist, midway to their positions. At first, both girls looked at each other in confusion, then spoke in unison:

“You learned the cheer backwards!”

Then, again, in unison, “No, I didn’t, you did!”

Both girls then turned forward to look at Christy. “Christy?”

Christy slowly turned so Jordan and Cassie were looking at her back. As she went through the cheer, Jordan watched in horror. She was the one who had learned the cheer incorrectly! Looking back, in her mind’s eye, she pictured Christy facing her every single time!

Tears began welling up in her eyes as she thought of all the hard work and time she had committed to the project. She then focused on her friends’ faces, saw the concern in their eyes and their furrowed brows, and the hilarity of the whole situation struck her. She burst into laughter.

Gasping for air, Jordan sputtered out, “Well, we’re the stereotypical ditzes right now, aren’t we? If that were the only qualification for being a cheerleader, I’d definitely be on the squad!”

Her friends were concerned about Jordan being able to accomplish the cheer mirror image when her coordination was mediocre at best, but she was too stubborn to be dissuaded. She’d worked to hard to give up now.

The moment arrived. Slowly, Jordan walked up to the entrance, took a deep breath, expelling it slowly as she pushed open the door. Putting on her brightest smile, she lined up with the other five girls who were trying out in her rotation.

“Ready? OK!” Arms stiff at her sides, Jordan allowed herself to think, so far, so good.

“LET’S GO, TIGERS!” All the girls thrust their arms into the air in unison, including Jordan.

“WE WILL…” Jordan remembered just in time to slant her left arm instead of her right.

“…DE-FEAT!” Her right arm in the diagonal slant, Jordan’s timing slipped a bit as she tried to think too far ahead.

“WE WILL…” Jordan mistakenly kept her right arm in the diagonal slant a second too long, switching quickly to her left arm, just in time to avoid punching the girl next to her.

“…NOT BE BEAT!” The words and tempo continued, and Jordan focused intently on completing the cheer without injuring her counterparts. Sometime during the cheer, Jordan focused her blurred vision to see Craig watching her, and he flashed a sympathetic smile as he saw her struggle to keep up.

Humiliated, but relieved, when the cheer was finally at its end, Jordan managed a feeble smile and a half-hearted “Go, Tigers!” as she left the floor in front of the judges and walked out the door, shaking her head.

Christy read her look accurately, saying, “Didn’t go so hot, did it?”

“Not, not so hot”, Jordan said sadly, her voice catching a bit with the realization that she didn’t make the team. As she received a comforting hug from Christy, Jordan allowed herself to feel a few moments of regret and self-pity for the opportunity lost; no extra time with Christy, no adoring glances and conversations with Craig…

Suck it up, Jordan, she told herself, and pulled back from Christy, saying, “So, do you think Cassie made it?”

The girls walked to the opening door, and caught sight of Cassie’s beaming face. “Oh, yeah, she did well!” they giggled.

As Jordan lay in bed that night, recalling her day of rollercoaster emotions, she was surprised to find that she was more relieved than disappointed that the whole ordeal was over. After all, Christy was still her friend, and she could meet Craig, even if she wasn’t a cheerleader.

Gazing out of her window into the dark night sky, her thoughts drifted beyond the ups and downs, and a new daydream popped into her mind’s eye. There she was on the gym floor, dancing with the rest of the dance team. After all, tryouts were only a few weeks away…
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