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UCLA

Cheers for Years

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By La'Tonya Miles M.A. '99, Ph.D. '04

Published Oct 1, 2007 8:00 AM


This fifteen year tradition is a great way to stay fit and make friends.

When Saul Rios '07 entered UCLA as a freshman in 2002, he sought a space on campus where he could practice the gymnastic skills he developed back in Indio, Calif. He stumbled across a community of self-professed "gym rats": former gymnasts or cheerleaders who practiced biweekly in the Wooden Center. Encouraged by his new friends, Rios went on to try out for and make the UCLA cheerleading squad. He now works for a defense company, but Rios still comes to "Open Gym" regularly.

According to Open Gym coordinator Terri Youngblood-Kinsley '86, it's a 15-year tradition, held every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. At Open Gym, former gymnasts, dancers and cheerleaders stay fit — and sustain enduring Bruin friendships.

Open Gym is a "Disneyland for cheerleaders," says Mollie Vehling '99, current Spirit Squad adviser. UCLA Dance Team members have professional opportunities after graduation. But once you stop cheering, it's "hard to pack it up and put it away." Like Kristen Mondino '08, who wants to try out for the Los Angeles Clippers cheerleaders. She also plans to apply for medical school but says that she will return to the gym for as long as she is in L.A.

Marc Cherlin '97, M.S. '03 drives 30 miles to campus each week from Whittier. Known affectionately as the "Old Man," Cherlin has been hanging out at Open Gym for 10 years. He has noticed that the Open Gym community has expanded to include martial artists and break dancers. One thing that has not changed, though, is the tremendous affection these gym rats have for one another. "You pick up where you left off," Cherlin says with a smile.

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