Alexis Hatfield, Madelyn Redfield and Jazmine Schneider, members of the Groton High School cheerleading team, were innocently cheering “let’s go Groton” in the bleachers at a boys basketball game in Southern Cayuga before the attack happened. No, this wasn’t a malicious attack, this was an attack like no other to date. It was the first “gymnastics-off” social media has ever seen – and social media has been buzzing ever since the incident with 11-plus million video views on Twitter alone.
It all started with the girls’ innocent display of school spirit before Sean and his “gang” from Southern Cayuga walked over to the girls.
“They just came up to us and (Sean) said ‘I challenge you to a gymnastics-off’ and that’s just how it started,” Hatfield said.
If you’ve seen the video, and I encourage you to watch it immediately, Sean and his crew walked over as if they had a serious bone to pick with the Groton cheer team. The video is taken from the other side of the gym so you can’t make out what is being said before Sean makes his first move.
Then, almost as if they spent weeks choreographing their first strike, the two girls with Sean stepped to the side to allow him space for the first backhand-spring. Thinking they had made their point and won they walked back to their side of the gym with attitude.
“We didn’t know exactly what to do, we just said we have to do something,” Hatfield said.
“We got hyped about it and we just said Lexi, go!” Redfield recalled.
Almost immediately Hatfield rose from the bleachers, knowing full well that she couldn’t let her team get “served” by the challengers and pulled off a round-off to backhand-spring combination. After sticking the landing she looked over at the challengers across the gym and put her hands up to gesture something that could only have been perceived as “take that”.
At this point the she returned to the bleachers thinking that the battle between gymnasts at the small-town high school basketball game was over. Boy was she wrong.
“I was just thinking well this was fun. We didn’t have this at all at any of these games, so it was entertaining for us,” Hatfield said.
If the video stopped at this moment then there’s no way it could’ve gone viral. Instead, Sean went out, and to everyone’s amazement, stuck a round-off. But instead of following it up with a backhand-spring, he leaped in the air and pulled off what is now arguably the most famous backflip on social media since the last summer Olympics – and that’s where the video ends.
It looks, according to the video, as if the Groton cheerleaders had lost and as if there was no way they could possibly come back after that sort of embarrassment. Since then Sean and has friends have been all over social media and interviewed on the Jimmy Kimmel show.
“Do you hope to live in a world where cheerleaders can resolve their differences without backflips?” Kimmel asked. Sean replied “no” with a laugh.
What everyone doesn’t know is the Groton cheerleaders’ side of the story. What the video doesn’t show is that after The Backflip – yes, I’m thinking we can capitalize it for emphasis – the basketball teams were taking the court again and the Groton cheerleading coaches said not to go out again.
“People on social media were saying that we lost. We were actually told by our coach to sit down, plus our team was going back on the court so we didn’t want to be disrespectful and distract,” Schneider said.
The Groton cheerleaders said that 99 percent of the time they’re the only cheerleading squad at a game, unless that game is against Dryden, Moravia, or Odessa-Montour. Most schools in the area are too small to have an official cheerleading team, which is exactly the reason why Sean thought it would be funny to “fight” the Groton cheerleaders.
I won’t pretend to understand all the nuances of a cheerleading team because I’ve never been on one. I think personally I would be annoyed if I had to get up and do a jump-split every time someone made a free-throw but these Groton kids have serious school spirit and spend their Friday night’s wherever the team is to show their support and that is commendable.
What came out of this viral video was more so just food for thought: there are kids at schools who want to be on sports teams (yes, cheerleading is a sport when there is competition) but some of these schools don’t have the size to field a team or the money to support one.
Kimmel suggested that even though there wasn’t an official cheerleading team for the school that no one would stop them from cheering like a cheer team for their school. I’m not entirely sure whether or not Sean was trying to make that point, but that’s what I took from it and what I hope readers think about.
Follow Nicholas Newcomb on Twitter @nick_newcomb