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As you have probably already heard by now, the Harvard women’s basketball team’s Hana Peljto made history on Friday night when she recorded her 2000th career point against Yale.
And though most people will say this milestone is a credit to her “skill,” “dedication” or “basketball smarts,” let’s be honest—we all know that we’re kidding ourselves. Peljto’s accomplishment is really due to a more obvious and self-described “obnoxious” source: senior Hunter Maats, male cheerleader.
“He never takes a play off from cheering, so there is absolutely no excuse for me to take one off from playing,” Peljto said. “For that, he has been instrumental to me getting to 2000. From ‘Peljtooooo!!!’ cheers to funky dances, he makes it simple—he inspires, and I just have to deliver. What can I say? I like the way he moves.”
Even members of the Harvard community who don’t necessarily go to all the games have noticed that Maats is more than just a passive being—he’s a force to be reckoned with.
“[Peljto] always says that his cheering is what helps her lead the team to victory,” said sophomore Jessica Jones—Maats’ girlfriend—who saw her first live game of the year on Saturday.
And for anyone who’s ever seen Maats on the sidelines of a basketball or football game, this ability to inspire doesn’t come as a shock.
Maats’ unique blend of high-stepping to midcourt, combined with his self-identification as “being the loudest and most insane guy” and what can only be loosely described as “dancing” when music comes over the PA system would certainly propel any Crimson baller to accomplish goals that he or she previously thought were impossible.
Just ask the football team, which has Maats and fellow male cheerleader junior Travis LaVoi to credit for its victory over Yale this year.
During the game, a Yale undergraduate leapt from the stands, grabbed the large Harvard flag, ran to his own student section and began to wave it in defiance of the Crimson cheering section. Maats and LaVoi came to the rescue, sprinting after him to reclaim the banner from the Bulldog horde—who did not exactly give the two a warm welcome.
“It was pretty intense—I had to fight pretty hard,” Maats said.
Of course, Maats’ efforts and willingness to risk bodily harm did not go unnoticed.
“’[Harvard football coach Tim] Murphy came up to us and said ‘You were the kids that went and got our flag back…Our boys really loved that, it really made the difference [between winning and losing],’” Maats said.
And while Murphy may have remembered the events a little bit differently, he certainly didn’t deny the impact that Maats had on the team.
“I told them that we saw it happening on the sideline and that we appreciated their effort,” Murphy said. “The Harvard-Yale game is competitive on many fronts.”
And it seems that this self-described “euro-brat,” former Undergraduate Council presidential candidate and cheerleader extraordinaire even encourages his fellow Harvardians on to greater efforts outside of sport arenas.
It was Maats and the other members of the Mather War Council who so bravely took it upon themselves to look after Adams in response to Kirkland’s hostilities, since the House, according to Maats, “couldn’t look after itself so we decided to take it under our protection and get the gong back on their behalf.”
But Maats did more than just protect weak and susceptible Adams. He went far and beyond the normal constraints of interhouse warfare during this year’s Primal Scream, painting himself in yellow and running around Harvard Yard with the Soviet national anthem playing in the background in defiance of Kirkland hostilities, frostbite and public embarrassment.
The antics certainly paid off, as he and the rest of the war council rallied Cabot to their side, creating a 21st century version of the Triple-Entente to counter Kirkland’s German-like aggressiveness, bringing about the return of the gong last Thursday night.
“Mather is pleased to share in the celebration with [Adams and Cabot],” Maats said.
Yes, this one man has brought male cheerleading to new heights, inspiring great individual efforts, monumental team wins and a peaceful resolution to what could have been a long and bloody affair.
And with just one last chance to display his cheer tactics publicly, take it upon yourself and make a trip down to Lavietes this weekend to see Maats and all of his enlivening ways during the men’s basketball team’s last two games of the season.
Because there is only one thing on this earth that can push this team to victories over both Penn and Princeton in the same year since the 1986-87 season, and it has just four words and seven syllables: Hunter Maats, male cheerleader.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.
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