Expanding experiences

Graduating senior Taylor Hiroyasu on evolution of cheer team, overcoming comfort zones

Isabella Tranello, Sports Editor

Solo shot of Taylor on the cheer team for team photos. (Courtesy of Taylor Hiroyasu)

Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone can be an intimidating leap of faith and it becomes even worse when one is labeled as ‘shy.’ However, the decision to try something new can lead an individual down an unexpected and marvelous path that they had never imagined possible for them to achieve. 

Senior communications major and four-year Seattle Pacific University cheer veteran Taylor Hiroyasu understands the strength it takes to put one’s true self out on display for all to see. Once she left her home state of Arkansas, SPU quickly became a place for Hiroyasu to practice a more engaged and open mindset 

“When I came to SPU, I didn’t know anyone and I have always been a more reserved person. So, when I first came to college, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of this and I have to push myself out of my comfort zones.’ Looking back on myself in freshman year, I never thought I would be as outgoing as I have been and earn a leadership position on the cheer team.” Hiroyasu said. 

Hiroyasu has been on the cheer team since her freshman year in 2018, but her path to cheer did not begin at SPU. She began her journey to cheering as a competitive gymnast but retired in her sophomore year of high school. 

After retiring from gymnastics, Hiroyasu joined her high school diving team for a short while before she was personally asked to join the cheer team due to her experience in gymnastics. From there, a deep love for cheer was engraved into Hiroyasu’s heart that would continue into her college years. 

“I came to SPU in my freshman year and attended the cheer clinical without really knowing if I would fit in with the team. Fortunately, I fell in love with the team and the current senior captain at the time took me in under her wing once I had made the team,” Hiroyasu said. “My freshman year was actually one of my favorite experiences. It was just the feeling of being in a totally new environment and learning new skills that made it so memorable for me; it was such a blast.” 

Since her freshman year, she has had the honor of being both the junior and senior captains. The SPU cheer team does not have any coaches, so the junior and senior captains of the team run practices, coordinate game days and choreograph dances and routines. 

She became the junior captain amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and did not get the opportunity to learn from the previous senior captain before she was thrown into the role in the 2021-2022 school year. 

“My goal as captain in my junior year was to learn from the senior captain, but that did not really get to happen because of COVID. So this year, I essentially started from scratch,” Hiroyasu said. “I was learning, the team was learning, so we have had some struggles but it was so rewarding in the end. I got to see my leadership skills grow and know that I can lead a team and do it successfully.” 

Hiroyasu was named the Veteran of the Year in the 2021-2022 spring season due to her outstanding commitment to the team and as an influential leader. She was tasked with a big responsibility and took on not just one, but three roles. She was not only a captain, but also a teammate and a friend. Every role that she played was vital to the dynamic of the team. 

Taylor with her cheer teammate Kaila Ebeling their freshman year. (Courtesy of Taylor Hiroyasu)

“I had really big shoes to fill in my role. A typical practice for me looked like spending time before we met to come up with a structured agenda that highlighted what stunts we wanted to do, cheers we wanted to run through and dance routines we needed to clean up,” Hiroyasu said. “ We also needed to focus on our problem areas and address them quickly because we only had two hours to practice. Our schedules were pretty busy and we had to fit everything in.” 

Since she has been on the cheer team for the entirety of her four years at SPU, Hiroyasu has experienced the highs and lows of the team and believes she is leaving the team in a good place. 

“We do not have as many members on the team as in previous years, and we’re lacking male athletes on the team, but we have created a tight bond on the team. Despite our smaller numbers, I love how we have been able to connect and really have become a family.” Hiroyasu said. 

She is sad to leave the team but is looking forward to the new beginnings she will be able to experience once she graduates. She hopes to have a career in the social media setting, but is also looking into becoming a cheer coach as well. 

She is unsure of where exactly she will land after graduation this year but she is sure about one thing. It will be yet another opportunity for her to step out of her comfort zone and start a new chapter of her life. 

“I have left the team in good hands with the senior captain for next year. Lizzy [Carlson] is going to do a great job as captain. Since we had to build from the ground up, I feel like we learned together and became the best leaders we could be. Our shared experiences will help her excel next year when I leave and move on to the next steps in my life.” Hiroyasu said.