Due to the coronavirus, the Mt. Blue High School cheer team must wear masks while practicing and maintain six feet of distance from each other except for when they’re in their designated stunt-pods. This year’s cheer team includes Tricia Souther Bowering, Haley Walsh, Ally Walsh, Jade Lewis, Janessa Whitney, Katie Conant, Lexie Whitney, Mariah Dill, Abbigail Swett, Emma Eubanks, Kellsie Buzzell, Lila Peck and Vicky Walsh. Photo courtesy of Dani Tannenbaum

FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue High School cheer team is preparing for their Feb. 18 virtual submission to this year’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference (KVAC). The team will have one shot at recording their routine in a gymnasium void of spectators due to restrictions posed by the coronavirus.

“It had been almost a year since they were able to stunt last,” coach Dani Tannenbaum said during a Zoom interview with three of the team’s 13 members. 

The team has been focusing on jumps and dancing over the fall during which they had to maintain contactless-style practices.

Last week, the cheer team was able to incorporate stunts back into their practices so long as Tannenbaum established stunt-pods of four to five people. These groups remain six feet apart from the other pods to minimize the amount of contact between team members.

“So its been a lot easier and I think the kids after last week started stunting again have a whole new energy. They’re able to do the aspects that I think, they love the most,” Tannenbaum said. “For the most part, kids are here to stunt and to dance or tumble.” 

Mt. Blue High school senior and cheerleader Haley Walsh practices for the upcoming Feb. 18 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference competition. Photo courtesy of Dani Tannenbaum

This pod style of breaking up the team prevents the cheerleaders from performing their favorite stunt, the pyramid which requires contact between all team members.

“The pyramid was disappointing, not being able to do that,” Mt. Blue cheerleader and senior Haley Walsh said.

Despite the disappointments, the team members expressed their relief that they could still practice and compete even with the COVID-19 modifications.

“We’re fortunate that we can do our sport because a lot of other schools aren’t able to do that stuff, so that’s a plus,” Mt. Blue cheerleader and senior Ally Walsh said.

The team has also missed out on cheering at games this year as no spectators are allowed during sporting events, determined by the Maine Principal’s Association (MPA). Although cheering at games was never a highlight for senior Tricia Souther Bowering, she now misses the opportunity to perform at half time. 

“It was the most like a competition and you got to show your friends and family why you’re never home all of the time,” Souther Bowering said.

She’s also nervous that the KVAC competition will feel too much like a practice without a crowd to add that extra pressure.

“I think it will be just as nerve wracking if not more because it will feel more like a practice environment and say, ‘oh it’s fine we can just do it again,’ but that’s not the case,” Souther Bowering said. “So I think for me, it will just feel like a practice environment, so I think it will be hard to adjust.” 

Tannenbaum agreed that the adjustment will be difficult based on her 16 years of coaching.

“Most teams that I have coached do better in front of a crowd because they have that energy coming from the crowd,” she said. “Whenever you’re performing to an empty room it’s just a whole different energy.”

Ally and Haley Walsh shook their heads a little in disagreement and expressed some relief at not having to compete in front of a crowd. 

It’s always worse dropping a stunt in front of a crowd than just your team,” Haley Walsh noted.

Some form of a crowd may still be present at the Mt. Blue cheer team’s KVAC competition. As Tannenbaum receives more competition details, she said that she may find a way to livestream the team’s performance for friends and family members.

The Mt. Blue High School cheer team practices in their stunt-pods which were developed to minimize the amount of contact between team members. Top left is Emma Eubanks hitting a liberty. Top right is Janessa Whitney pulling her heel stretch. From bottom left is Haley Walsh hitting her heel stretch and bottom right is the entire team warming up stunts before practice. This year’s cheer team includes Tricia Souther Bowering, Haley Walsh, Ally Walsh, Jade Lewis, Janessa Whitney, Katie Conant, Lexie Whitney, Mariah Dill, Abbigail Swett, Emma Eubanks, Kellsie Buzzell, Lila Peck and Vicky Walsh. Photo courtesy of Dani Tannenbaum

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