The Mt. Ararat cheering team performs its routine for the virtual KVAC championship on Thursday at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted high schools sports in all seasons.

Cheerleading was no exception.

“We haven’t had as many opportunities as we have in years past,” said Gardiner head coach Joanne Moody, who is in her 35th year as a coach. “It’s been a challenge to get the work that we want done because of the lack of opportunity.”

On Thursday, several squads were positioned to perform their routine in the virtual Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships. Squads were allowed to submit a video of their routine, which would then be judged and scored. Results of the KVAC championships will be announced at a later date, as scores are tabulated. 

Each school participating in the KVAC championships needed its athletic director to certify that their squad only performed one routine. The virtual state championships are set for March 17 and 18.

“I’m really not sure how it’s going to go, this sort of deal is new to us,” Moody said prior to the Tigers’ routine. “They’ve been working hard and are ready for this opportunity and I’m excited to see what they can do on a stage like this.”

The Mt. Ararat cheering team performs its routine for the virtual KVAC championship on Thursday at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

Elsewhere in the KVAC, Morse held its routine Wednesday night at the new high school in Bath. Cheering coach Heidi Kirkpatrick said it was the first athletic event to be held in the new school. 

“Our performance (Wednesday) was the best routine in my opinion that we did all season,” said Kirkpatrick. “After what we’ve been through with injuries and factors with the pandemic, they really brought it when it mattered most and I could not be more proud of them. …

The girls were just ecstatic (Wednesday) night, we had our athletic director cheering us on, which was better than having no one there. It was a lot quieter than I expected when it came down to it.”

Like Gardiner, Mt. Ararat performed its routine Thursday afternoon. 

“While it doesn’t still feel normal, it gives us some sort of competition and something to accomplish,” said Mt. Ararat head coach Christine Mecham. “It’s going to be a lot different this year, and there are a few new rules we’ve had to adjust to.

The new rules included no talking, meaning cheerleaders couldn’t call out a certain cheer, which teams were scored on in the past. The other major change is this barring of pyramids, forcing coaches to find alternative ways to score points in that element of the routine. 

The Morse cheering team performs its routine for the virtual KVAC championship on Wednesday night in Bath. Photo provided by Soggy Dog Designs

“I don’t think I only speak for myself when I say we had to make a lot of changes to what we are used to,” Mecham said. 

While it was nice to have some competition, the cheerleaders couldn’t help but miss the usual environment that comes with the conference championships. 

“Usually we can socialize with the other girls, cheer other teams on, and just have fun,” said Avery Estela of Mt. Ararat. “This year, it’s clearly not the same.”

“It’s going to feel like a long three or four days waiting for those results to come in,” added Moody. “I know the girls will be anxious too.”

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