Cheer anticipates upcoming season following COVID-19 year

Lucy Sullivan, Opinions Editor

Gabby Cui (11) and Lis Kelsey (10) peform a stunt during practice Aug. 17 in preparation for the first game Aug. 20. Photo by Lucy Sullivan.

Cheerleading has always been a source of spirit on campus, harnessing the energy of chanting crowds and stadium lights and echoing that spirit back to the community through choreographed routines, cheers and stunts. Even in the 2020-21 school year, when athletic events were few and far between, they continued to work at their sport. 

According to Co-captain Taisia Latimer (11), the team adapted to whatever level of contact was permitted by local authorities.

Cheer had a few virtual practices via Zoom before they were able to come together in-person. 

“Typically our Zoom practices were informative [and] productive. We would be given information regarding how the season [would] look moving forward, whether that [would be cheering] at games, if we could do in person [practice], etc.,” Latimer said. “Afterwards we were usually given workouts or cheers to choose from and ha[d] to send in videos as proof of the tasks assigned. It was a challenging yet good experience because, although we aren’t practicing together as a team, we [were] still getting work in so that whenever we would’ve returned to cheering on the field we would be more than ready.” 

When the team did return to live practices last spring, they had to modify their routines to follow health guidelines. 

“[Practice] was socially distanced while wearing masks, [and] we weren’t able to stunt due to the close contact,” Lane Wahlgren (11) said.

Even with these adjustments to practices and routines, members of the team were grateful they still had the opportunity to work with each other and do what they love.

Latimer explained that despite it not being all that the team had hoped for, it was a valuable experience for everyone involved. 

“The coaches and the girls learned to adapt to the changes and protocols and just tried to have a great season,” Latimer said. “We learned that even though we were in [a] predicament that we couldn’t control, we still were the spirit of the school that should always bring […] high energy, support […], and enthusiasm no matter the situation.”

While still battling the uncertainty of the pandemic, the team was relentless in their efforts to prepare for the modified season. They performed at five football games, even though that meant cheering for much smaller crowds. 

“It was sad because I knew what it was like when we did have spectators and a Black Hole, so seeing it without was super weird,” Wahlgren said. “I was upset for the younger and new girls because they still haven’t had a proper introduction to Friday Night Lights.”

But as the 2021-22 school year kicks off, the team is eager to perform in front of packed stands again. 

“[We’ve] been working on all of our cheers, chants and dances,” Wahlgren said. “Fortunately, we’ve also been permitted to stunt again so we’ve been spending a lot of our practices making up for lost time.”

Co-captain Rachel Greenstein (11) said  that the team is back to stunting and  practicing three days a week, which ensures that both the JV and varsity groups are fully prepared for what comes next.

“For the girls and myself, I know we are all definitely excited to be stunting again because we know that is what usually hyped the crowd up,” Latimer said. 

Though the situation with COVID-19 has generally eased over the past few months, the recent surge in Delta Variant cases has been cause for concern when it comes to large-scale events. This factored into the cancellation of the annual First Day Rally, at which cheer was set to perform. Although this news was initially upsetting, the team has taken it in stride according to their captains, planning new ways to debut their routines.

“Our team took the cancellation of the first day rally as an opportunity to put a little spin on the first week of school,” Co-captain Courtney Long (11) said. “We knew that we still wanted to show our support, so we began to brainstorm different ways to welcome everyone back to school with the same spirit.” 

The team was able to perform at a lunchtime Spirit Blitz on August 20, and will be cheering at the upcoming football games. 

“Regardless of events having full capacity or half, we will still cheer like the stands are full,” Wahlgren said. “And if we sadly have to stop […] we will practice until we can perform again.”