By Marty Farmer
Eliot Mack is a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School who enjoys wheel throwing in ceramics and studies standup and improv at The Second City comedy club/theatre in Chicago. Pierce Boyd-Bagby, an OPRF junior with a love for linguistics, recently enjoyed a life-altering trip to Japan and is currently studying Arabic.
While their respective hobbies certainly are diverse, Mack and Boyd-Bagby have a lot in common. Each of them possesses tremendous school spirit and a passion to perform. They also are the only males on the OPRF cheerleading and drill team, respectively.
"I know [Mack]; we're kind of friends," said Boyd-Bagby, who was just chosen to join the OPRF junior varsity drill team.
For Mack, the decision to join the cheerleading squad was a no-brainer.
"When I was younger, I did a lot of gymnastics," Mack said. "I have always had a huge passion for performing. I had some friends who had done cheer in the past and encouraged me to join. It's been a really good experience and something I enjoy."
Mack has already made a major impact on the team according to coach Melody Brown.
"Eliot brings a lot of positive energy and sportsmanship to the team," she said. "He's coachable and a great asset to the program. As a senior, he's kind of like a big brother on the team and the girls respond to him well."
Like Mack's positive experience becoming a cheerleader, Boyd-Bagby has been heartened by the support of family, friends and classmates in joining the drill team.
"Originally, I think my mom was concerned there might be some bullying [at school] because I would be the only boy on the team. Everybody has been really encouraging. My drill teammates have been super nice and the guys on the football team congratulated me."
Boyd-Bagby is also flourishing academically after his aforementioned visit to Japan.
"Visiting Japan actually improved my study habits a lot," he said. "I studied a lot more Japanese than the other kids. When I came back home, I was like, 'wow,' I can really challenge myself academically."
While there have been a handful of boys on the OPRF spirit teams in the past, it's still a rarity at OPRF. On the bright side, like so many classes, teams and extracurricular activities at the school, at least the option is available.
"I think our first male cheerleader at OPRF was when I attended school here," said Brown, a former OPRF cheerleader. "We had another [male cheerleader] around 2000. It's catching on a little slower here. Eliot is a big part of our team just like any other unisex team."
Mack can't wait to perform in front of the 4,000 or so fans expected to attend the Huskies' Friday night football games.
"I believe school spirit is very important," Mack said. "I'm so proud to attend OPRF; I truly love my high school. I think the most important thing you can do in life is follow your passion. That's why I joined cheer. As long as you keep trying and believe in what you do, nobody can stop you."