Stepping out of comfort zones

In getting to know the young man behind “Ace The Aggie” mascot, you would never think this talkative young man was once a shy Poteet ISD student. Christopher ‘Chris’ Orta Jr. is a sophomore at Poteet High School and is the son of Christopher Orta Sr. and Erica Pena. Judging by his activity when in his mascot role, you’d never expect Orta as an introvert.

“This is actually my first time joining anything. All my years in school I never did anything, only plain school. I was very, very quiet. Now, I’m more social and more talkative,” said Orta. I was always like that with my friends, but only with them. When I started doing this, I started opening up more after a while.”

Sometimes trying something new isn’t always easy. Getting out and doing something different can often be met with feelings of nervousness and uncertainty. Orta looked foward to making changes in being more active in his school and has enjoyed building friendships with the members of the squad. The first time he went out on the field as Ace, he was nervous. Once, he saw all the fans trying to get his attention to take pictures and children waiting to give him high-fives, it put his nerves at ease.

“That reaction I get out of people and I try to get that crowd pumping, it’s fun…It’s really fun to cheer with them [cheer team]. I had so few friends before I joined this. When I got to cheer with them and talk to them it became an awesome bond. Now, I see all of them like family,” said Orta. 

  His parents, he said, are very happy and supportive. Orta says they’re proud he’s stepping out of his bubble and has changed for the better. They’re happy to see him being more active in school. Though a few students showed interest in joining the cheer team as the mascot, Orta was the only willing participant to take on the role. He had zero cheer experience before attending UCA cheer camp and mascot training. 

“We went to camp and they taught us the basic rules of mascot. It was like a lot of rules and it was kind of hard for me for the first time because I was new to it. But, it was fun and I learned a lot,” said Orta.

What many might not realize is it’s actually tough work to walk around in the mascot suit. To prepare himself, Orta must drink at least a gallon of water the day before a game and at least another gallon in the hours leading up to his character role. Temperatures inside his mascot suit can get as high as 100 degrees. At mascot training, hand signals were developed to alert the cheer team and sponsor if breaks or water was needed. 

“The suit is pretty heavy. I can’t walk normal, I have to pick my legs up to march everywhere,” said Orta.

It’s definitely a process to get into character. Before the suit goes on, Orta must put on a vest that contains ice packs to help keep his body cool. His cheer manager assists him as he puts on the torso, boots and gloves. A battery-operated fan inside the hat must also be on, as well. 

“My first game, my back cramped up real bad. I had some trouble moving,” said Orta. “The thing is, I forgot to think about how many quarters I could stay in a game. That day I tried to stay in the whole game until third quarter and I was out finally. I couldn’t move because it was very cramped up.”

Although Orta says it’s a challenge at times, he loves and enjoys being Ace The Aggie. He describes the opportunity to represent Poteet as fun and being a great privilege. He also shared one of his favorite moments playing Ace and what he enjoys about his part, thus far.

“The last game we did against Natalia. There was these two little girls that came up to me. They were happy and calling me. I love kids, they’re fun,” said Orta. “They came up to me and wanted to give me a high-five. They were little so I had to get down really low to reach them. It’s really awesome to see a kid happy and smiling when I go up to them. It’s really great and it makes me feel like I really show them entertainment and I make them smile. That’s the best part, when kids come up to me.”

Helping to keep Ace The Aggie’s image, the cheer team bought a tent for Orta to change in. Ruth Olivares, cheer sponsor, described some children as being devastated if they see Orta remove the hat. 

“I think it’s cute how they think I’m real. The last thing I want to do is ruin a kid’s imagination,” said Orta. 

Orta is thankful for the encouragement he’s received from the Aggie fans and Poteet community. He extends his encouragement to others by asking one and all to become more involved in activities at school. Cheer sponsor, Ruth Olivares, is proud of how far Orta has come since taking on the mascot role.

Olivares is pleased with how far Orta’s come while stepping out of his comfort zone and joining in something new.

“Chris has played an important part in our squad. The fact that he was so quiet when he came on, and the amount of growth we’ve seen since summer and going to camp. Knowing that just being in an activity like that can change a person and have them just blossom the way he has, I think that’s amazing. We’re hoping that more kids will want to do stuff like this. Especially the kids that don’t do a lot of stuff or aren’t involved in athletics or whatever. Try it, you just don’t know what it’s going to do for you,” said Olivares.

Orta also thanks his dad for always teaching him the importance of always being yourself. “My Dad’s always taught me that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. It’s only you who matter and your own opinion of you and your own thoughts. That’s why I thought I should do this because then if I do that, I’m expressing how I am,” said Orta.

This Friday, the Poteet Aggies face the Sabinal Yellowjackets in their homecoming game at 7:30 at Poteet Stadium. Join “Ace The Aggie” and the Poteet cheer team as they cheer the Aggies on to another victory!


































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