Words of Cheer - Herkie Jump

Last week’s column was about Mr. Lawrence Herkimer of Dallas, Tex., who is credited with much of the foundational building of the sport of cheerleading in the United States 1940-60’s. 

Lawrence Herkimer’s most famous namesake is the cheerleading jump that bears his name to this day.  The story goes that Lawrence was intending to perform a split jump, with legs in a wide V and arms reaching forward to the ankles. Instead of the full split, he did one leg straight out and the other leg bent behind similar to a runner going over a hurdle.  He had good height in the jump, he kept his head high, maintained his smile, and pulled it off. The Herkie was originally performed with one hand on a hip and the other hand reaching up, with the athlete’s chest up, facing the crowd.

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The Herkie jump is arguably the most difficult jump in cheerleading. It requires elongated hamstrings to get the front foot up, and hip extension to get the other leg stretching back. Most modern choreography has the two arms pulling forward parallel to the front leg, but there are also photos of “herkies” with arms in a high V, or out to the sides.

Most athletes have a preferred side for stretches, one leg is usually more flexible than the other. For full marks in a cheerleading routine, jumps are often performed in a rotation doing the Herkie jump on both the right and left sides to demonstrate that the athletes have trained hard to overcome their flexibility preferences. 

Lawrence Herkimer maintained his athletic flare by practicing the Herkie well after his college days. In his own words, “I was about 60 when I did my last one.”


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