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CHEER UP 2021: ‘Hopeful’ is word for next year

Dalton High School seniors Melanie Gerber and Jordyn Miller, at right, lead the varsity cheerleading squad during a basketball game this season. (PHOTOS BY LISA McGINTY
LMc Photography)

Dalton senior Sydney Christian back flips at a basketball game this season.

DALTON  No pep rallies. Masks at the ready. No competitions.

The high school cheerleading experience continues to be much different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many life lessons are being learned, said Dalton’s cheerleading coach Briana Reed.
“Dalton High School cheerleading has looked a lot different this year; during the fall and now during the winter,” Reed said in an email.  “The girls have embraced the opportunities that they have been given. It is a very unique experience and something I hope we never have to endure again. However, as a teacher and coach, I feel that there have been many life lessons involved; overcoming adversity, being flexible, adapting to change, and truthfully being present in the moments that you are given.”

There was so much uncertainty this year, Reed noted.

Because of the health crisis, safety protocols included junior varsity cheerleaders only cheered at home games during football season. During football games, cheerleaders wore masks entering and exiting the stadium, as well as during halftime. While varsity cheerleaders were allowed to travel, the marching band did not.

“This was very different for the girls as we rehearse band dances during summer practices, but had minimal opportunities to perform them in front of the crowd,” Reed said.

The cheerleaders were not able to have pep rallies, and the homecoming pep rally is typically the best, Reed wrote.

“Hopeful is a word that I have used several times this year,” Reed wrote in the email. “I am very hopeful that 2021 brings good news and positive changes for the girls. I am aware of the circumstances and I continue to embrace the opportunities the girls are given, rather than focus on what they are not. It is a challenging time, this is without a doubt. My hope is that Fall of 2021 presents some “normalcy” for our students and our student athletes.”

So far, for basketball season, all cheerleaders are unable to travel, Reed said. She explained that the girls cheer four on each side of the basket when they normally cheer as a group of eight, side-by-side.

“Normally the JV and varsity squads do a quarter cheer between the varsity third and fourth quarter and throw out shirts,” Reed wrote. “This year, we will do this during the JV and the varsity game as the squads cannot be in the gym at the same time.”

The girls are still able to do their “Hello Cheer” and “Starting 5” together.

“As a cheerleading squad, we have had our ups and downs,” Reed wrote. “We have overcome hard conversations, tears and unfortunate circumstances. However, I do believe that these girls have learned a valuable lesson or two. It may not be clear now, but later down the road, they can look back and reveal their strength, dedication, and commitment to overcoming this situation. We are a close-knit group. It has definitely been a challenging year to keep the normal “spirit” alive.”

The basketball squad consists of six seniors: Sydney Christian, Melanie Gerber, Abigail Hostetler, Jordyn Miller, Landree Siders and Abbi Snyder. “These six girls bring the energy to each and every practice,” Reed said. “I recognize their efforts and appreciate their spirit. As their coach, I am looking forward to watching them this basketball season.”

Reed and Amanda Novak have coached together the past five years and this will be the second group they see the entire way through. “Are these times ideal? Absolutely not,” Reed said. “However, the girls we have in the program are taking every opportunity to be present and enjoy what they are given.”

In their own words

Dalton’s senior cheerleaders shared how this year has been different and they also offer some words of advice and good wishes to cheer up the community this holiday season:

Abigail Hostetler and Sydney Christian: Coming into the new year I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. But also to spend a lot of time with family and friends. This year has been filled with so many ups and downs and we all deserve a little bit of happiness this time of year. It’s important to look forward and not back, and believe that things will get better. And it is especially important to remember that anyone could be going through difficulties and to be extra kind to everyone. Enjoy the little moments and be grateful for your blessings.
Abbi Snyder and Landree Siders: The environment is the biggest change from last year to this year, there aren’t as many people which makes it very quiet. This means we have to make it loud and exciting for the fans along with the team. That’s our biggest job at the end of the day.
Melanie Gerber and Jordyn Miller: This year has been nothing close to normal but something that’s gotten us through this is knowing it’s our last year cheering with each other and we need to make the most of it. Experiencing this with one another and knowing we’re all in this together has helped me us a lot. We wouldn’t want to go through this with any other people.

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