FARMINGTON – As the only high school sport getting a State Championship this winter, cheerleading is in a simultaneously challenging and fortunate position in the midst of a pandemic. Other winter sports have been denied many games and competitions, including the larger events that draw more than two schools together, but cheerleading has found a way around the conventional arrangements for their athletes to continue through a new virtual competition.
“We’re fortunate in that we can compete without coming into contacting other teams, so at least we have that going for us,” Mt Blue’s Head Cheerleading Coach of two years, Danielle Tannenbaum said.
For the first time, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference is accepting virtual submissions from cheer teams wishing to compete. As the largest athletic conference in the state, with 29 schools participating, the task of meeting the hopes of athletes who have suffered ongoing cancellations and modifications to their season was one that required some technical rearranging, a delay to the season and an open mind from both participating athletes and coaches.
“We went into the season with a mindset of just ‘go with the flow’. The whole season has been like reinventing the wheel,” Tannenbaum said.
On hearing that the KVAC would be hosting a virtual competition in which videos of routines could be submitted, judged and played on a streaming platform for the competing teams to see, the Mt. Blue Cheer team was enthusiastic and eager to participate, though with reservations.
“The energy level is definitely different. The girls are used to having things cancelled, so there’s a feeling of wanting to do this, but still being unsure if it’s really going to happen,” Tannenbaum said.
Her team of 13 athletes have been both fortunate and equally affected by some of the restrictions that other winter sports have suffered. After starting their season nearly a month late and having to recover from initial no-contact restrictions that denied stunting, they’ve also had to contend with the scheduling instability due to county regulations that can change week-to-week, either allowing for or cancelling practices. This week, due to concerns in the RSU 9 district, the cheer team took its first cancellation after Mt. Blue was required to go virtual to minimize the covid virus spread. Furthermore, Coach Tannenbaum has had to work around what she calls the “potential of having a revolving roster” with students being kept home from school and practice for fear of exposure. According to Tannenbaum, she’s only had three practices with the entire team there.
In preparation for their submission date to KVAC of Feb. 18, Mt Blue Cheer has redesigned their practices and is attempting to stay positive. Stunting, though now allowed, is done only in controlled cohorts of girls who don’t mix with other groups and sanitize before and after completing skills. The athletes’ parents, while disappointed that they won’t be able to see their daughters compete in a live setting, are still supportive and look forward to the virtual event.