COLORADO SPRINGS — For many of us, our routines have made a complete 180 since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but for cheerleaders, literally, their routines look much different.
According to CHSAA rules, they have to be on the sidelines when cheering at football games, and they must be at least 25 feet away from athletes on the fields and spectators in the stands.
The same rules apply to band members, who are also bringing excitement to the stands on Friday nights. The season has been far from normal for both groups.
Cheerleaders are used to grabbing their pom pom's and spirit and stunting on the sidelines in years past, but now they also have to remember to grab their face masks. Stunts are not allowed either.
"When we cheer and when we have to yell, our masks come down. We have to be louder than we usually are," said Jaynessa Hopkins, a cheerleader at Pueblo County High School.
"We're also not able to touch each other which is really difficult, considering stunting is a part of cheer."
Because of the pandemic, the cheer season was off to a quick start. Cheerleaders had about 2 1/2 weeks from finding out they were having a season, to holding to tryouts, to cheering on the sidelines on Friday nights.
"It's tough," said Kaloni Mitchell, a senior cheerleader at Mesa Ridge High School. "It was definitely weird because it was all just thrown together really fast and we had to teach the newcombers quickly too."
Despite some of the restrictions cheerleaders' spirits are still high and they say it's helped form a closer bond with their teammates.
"Now that we're not able to stunt, we can bond with every single person on the team, and get to know them equally," said Hopkins. "It's a pretty good bonding experience."
Crowds in the stands are much smaller too because of the pandemic, but cheerleaders are thankful they still have a season to look forward to.
"I really am happy that I am able to do this for senior year," said Laila Peckhan, a senior cheerleader at Mesa Ridge High School, "because I thought it was going to be pushed off until spring."
"I think it's a good way to go back and start being normal and having that high school experience that we all want," said Hopkins.