By Emma Duncan--Eagle Assistant Editor
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, no one can stop this Eagle pride, not even Covid!
“All of the Covid regulations made it extremely difficult to get back in the groove of things,” Cheer Head Coach Marsha Lopez began concerning pre-season conditioning. “We couldn't even have tryouts until December 1st when we normally have them in the Spring of the previous year, so even though we had been conditioning for months, we were still behind. We also weren't allowed to stunt for several months, and even though we are now allowed to do so, we are limited as to which stunts we're allowed to do. However, it's still better than not being allowed to cheer at all!”
As described above, the Eagle cheer team faced a delayed start to season prep due to COVID-19, but they were still able to cheer on their fellow athletes.
“We could have 10 cheerleaders per home game for girls' and boys' basketball games,” Lopez elaborated. “We [were] allowed to have all our cheerleaders at home games for football. We remain[ed] in the bleachers (stands) at all times. We [were] not allowed to make a tunnel for the teams to run though, and we [were] not allowed to perform any quarter or halftime routines.”
Senior Kaylee Meador was thankful for this opportunity.
“I felt very fortunate to be able to cheer at any games at all,” she commented. “Cheering from the stands and wearing masks wasn't ideal, but just being at the games kind of gave a sense of normalcy. Everything was so last minute since decisions kept changing, but I genuinely did not think we were going to be able to cheer at any games.”
Meador also looked forward to the competitions Franklin County attended, especially since this was her senior season.
“After finding out we were going to be able to go to competitions, I was ecstatic. I knew things were going to be very different from how they have been in my previous years, but I was just glad to be able to compete with my team,” she continued.
Their first competition, held on March 17th at William Fleming, was a District Showcase. Due to the pandemic, invitationals were suspended this year, and the District Showcase was created in its place.
“Three of the District teams competed on March 10th and then the other three on March 17th, and it gave us a chance to get in front of a small crowd and also get feedback from the judges. Our score was 229 out of 300, and out of the six District teams, we came in 2nd, missing first place by just 1.5 points,” Lopez reported. “I was very proud of the team, especially considering how different the competition environment was and even the season overall.”
Once again Covid tried to stop the Eagles from soaring to success but the cheerleaders didn’t let anything stop them.
“There were only a few fans allowed in to watch, and they were all William Fleming (the host school) fans,” Lopez explained. “I was really worried about that leading up to the competition, but they were so amazing! We had to do our warm-up in front of [the fans] prior to actually performing our entire routine, and they were cheering and yelling encouraging things--it was so motivational for our team! They did the same thing when we performed, and I was just so grateful to them for encouraging my girls the way they did.”
The second competition, held on March 24 at William Byrd, was also different from what the girls were used to. What was supposed to be a District Competition turned into just another meet, as no District Champion would be “crowned” this year.
As if this season couldn’t have any more challenges, injuries also stood in the way of a normal District Competition.
“We had a significant injury the Monday prior to this Wednesday competition, and one of our flyers was pulled, so we basically had to redo our entire routine that day,” Lopez said. “We had a very long, tough practice, but the team stuck it out, pulled together, and worked so hard to make it work. We probably changed formations at least 50 times, and they were still able to remember all of the changes.”
Regardless of these last minute alterations, Districts was still a close match.
“Our score actually went up from the week before, and although we came in 4th overall, we were right in there with the other teams. We just missed coming in 3rd and were only 7 points away from the 2nd place team,” Lopez recalled.
For this competition, a limited number of Eagle fans and family members were allowed to attend, which seems to have lifted cheerleaders’ spirits at the time.
“It was great having my mom at my competitions to support me! I feel like I perform better when she is watching because I feel the need to be perfect and impressive. When my mom is there everything feels much clearer and I can push myself harder,” sophomore Madison Holland explained.
While Franklin County ended up not qualifying for States this year, Lopez is still proud of everything her girls accomplished despite the challenges.
“Honestly I can't say enough good things about this team and how resilient and dedicated they have been this year. It was an extremely challenging year, but these athletes kept showing up and putting in the work, doing what they were told, following the Covid protocols every day. I know they got down sometimes, but they always bounced back and made it all work. They stayed positive through the whole season and really seemed to bond as a team. To say that I am proud of them would be a huge understatement,” she concluded.