By Christopher Tremblay
As with many social gatherings, high school athletics experienced turbulent cancellations due to Covid-19. Eventually, teams began to get back onto their respective fields to take part in an abbreviated season, but with no tournament play. While it was frustrating to the athletes, they were at least getting back to take part in the sports they loved.
Some sports, such as Cheer, were actually put on hold for a number of months. The Norwood Cheer squad would typically begin preparing for the upcoming season in August, but this year they were shelved and pushed to a Fall II season. They wouldn’t see the field or gym until February, a full half of year later than normal. Senior Co-Captains Jillian Olbrys and Kendra DiTullio, both back spots for the team, found their final season to be not what they had expected or hoped for.
“It was really weird not having our season in the fall,” Olbrys said. “Every year we’ve gone back to school in September and the first thing we do is start practicing and get ready for the season. That didn’t happen this year; tryouts didn’t even begin until February 22.”
Not only was the season moved, but it came with stipulations, much like every other sport. Norwood would be allowed to Cheer at only three home games, nothing on the road. In a typical year, the squad would usually get to Cheer 10-12 varsity football games. In addition to seeing their football games cut down, the team would also only be allowed to compete in one competition instead of five or six. The Tri-Valley League competition would be their one and only and it wouldn’t take place until April 14.
“What really hurt was missing out on cheering on the team in our last Thanksgiving Day game,” DiTuillio said. “It was tough as that is something that we’ve always done and where we were on Thanksgiving morning.”
Although the girls have lost a good portion of their season, Coach Jill Buckman believes they are just happy to have somewhat of a season where they can cheer at all, especially the seniors.
“The adjustment in all sports has affected our senior year,” Olbrys said. “The new rules, wearing of masks, and just being able to cheer at three games is sad, but at least we have some home games.”
In addition to wearing masks at all times, girls are to be at least 10 feet apart during their cheering routines and those in the stands are very limited as well.
“You can’t see us smiling under our masks, we only get to cheer to two parents per girl and we have to yell because we are so far apart from one another,” DiTullio said. “We are very thankful for some sort of season though.”
Buckman added that during the half time shows the squad is only allowed to have two groups of 10 girls on the field to perform their stunts and have to stay away from one another instead of intermingling as they normally would. Having the girls stay in their own groups allows the identifying of those involved if there happened to be any sort of health issue.
The Norwood coach added that the TVL Competition meet is going to be different than any they’ve ever encountered.
“I may sound like a broken record, but again we are happy just to be having at least one competition,” Buckman said. “In the past, we’ve had time to prepare throughout the year with each competition, but this year it will be our last 2 minutes and 30 seconds on the mat.”
“I don’t really think that there is more pressure on us having only one competition,” Olbrys said. “We just know that it’s the last time as seniors that we get to perform together so we really want to make it count.”
As the Mustang Cheer team gets ready for their final performance of the season in mid-April, they continue to look back on what could have been.
“To be honest with you, I really didn’t think that we were even going to have a cheer season,” DiTullio said. “Not having anything last year and seeing what all the other sports were going through its just amazing that we are here and although a shortened season, it’s a season. We have one last chance to see other teams and perform, it’s exciting.”
Buckman and her girls would like nothing more than to go out in this abbreviated season with the TVL Championship, but if that’s not the case, they’ll cherish the season they were able to have instead of sitting at home wondering what if.