Give Me a C, Give Me an O, Give Me a V-I-D!


Kasuni Wickramasinghe, Sports Editor

From packed bleachers to sparse ones, from a roaring crowd to a pattering of polite applause, the effects of COVID-19 are obvious when we look at our athletic spectators. There is no doubt that all our student athletes have been affected by this, but perhaps the team whose dynamic has shifted the greatest is our cheer team. 

Cheerleaders are more than just what you see in Glee and Bring It On, more than just the superficial “mean girls” of high school. Our cheerleaders are the beating heart of Hills, the spirit of our school. Whether it be through pep rallies or sporting events, our cheerleaders are always there to energize our students, teachers, coaches, and athletes. Coach Sara Pratt, the head cheerleading coach, describes her team as “the glue of the school.” They bring the Hills community together by encouraging students and teachers to attend games, pep rallies, and other events. Especially now, when most of our students are separated by more than six feet, both figuratively and literally, our cheerleaders help to connect the Hills community. 

Cheerleaders are used to being able to work off the crowd to create an infectious energy that then spreads to the athletes. “Being able to look into the stands and seeing the bleachers filled with excited students boosts the energy of not only the cheer team but the whole atmosphere of the game,” says senior captain Rebecca Stocknoff. 

Unfortunately, the new COVID-19 guidelines, which limit the number of seats available at games, has reduced the usually packed Gifford bleachers to a sprinkling of spectators. While the overall number of spectators has drastically decreased, the number of students attending games has fallen as well. The few spectators that are present are mainly comprised of parents. While the athletes and cheerleaders appreciate the support that they show, Coach Pratt admits that it’s harder for her cheerleaders to engage with an older audience, and that they prefer to work with student spectators. Try to imagine a group of middle-aged men and women chanting ‘H-I-L-L-S!’ Hard, right? It’s infinitely easier for our cheerleaders to bounce energy off of a crowd of high schoolers. Despite the new restrictions on spectators, a few dedicated students have managed to attend the games to show their support. The cheerleaders send out a heartfelt thank you to those students who have been able to attend games in-person. “It fills our hearts to be able to cheer to a crowd rather than a cluster of metal bleachers,” says Stocknoff. 

Despite the lack of student spectators, our cheerleaders are adapting to their new normal by trying to make the best of their situation. Coach Pratt says that her team is grateful that the Hills administration appreciates the cheer program, and that they are not downgraded or diminished. “At one point all of us had thought this season was going to be cancelled,” captain Samantha Brink confesses. The team recognizes that not all cheer teams were lucky enough to have a fall season, and are striving to make the best out of an imperfect situation. Captain Emma Romano says that this season has proved that “[the team] can come together in hard times and continue to cheer on.”

We should all be grateful to our cheerleaders for continuously putting in their time and effort to energize our Hills community. In the words of Emma Romano, “spreading spirit goes beyond the football field,” and we should all take her words to heart. You don’t need pom-poms, or know how to do the splits to contribute to school spirit. Everyone can do their part by showing up for the classmates and peers and giving their support.