Rutland County has become a cheerleader mecca in the state of Vermont.
The Rutland High team have won six consecutive Division Championships and Mill River has won three consecutive Division II titles and four in the past five years.
At last year’s state meet, the top three teams in Division II were all from Rutland County.
Mill River was 179.5, Poultney had 146, and Fair Haven had 144.
Rutland’s score of 197 overtook a tough battle for second place between Mount Anthony and South Burlington.
Mount St. Joseph and Green Mountain are other area schools with cheerleading teams.
Schools across the region are ramping up the 2021 season, but like most sports played in the midst of the pandemic, there will be some differences on the carpet this year.
As stated in the Vermont Principals’ Association guidelines, “Due to the increased risk of transmission associated with vocalization and growth retardation, cheerleading teams are not permitted to perform vocal routines or growth retardation during winter season 2020-2021. “
Even with the restrictions, teams are taking the season in stride and happy to have a chance to compete.
“The VPA has given us a good idea of what we can and cannot do,” said Mill River coach Tabitha Moore. “We feel good right now. We are fortunate to be able to do more than a sport like basketball currently can. We can still create routines. “
The impacts of the pandemic certainly have an impact on the way Minutemen set up their routines. Mill River’s squad are generally smaller, so social distancing requirements make preparation a bit different.
“It can be difficult to figure out how to fill the mat with people six feet away,” Moore said.
Mill River has nine athletes on its list. Rachel Clark and Jacob Langlois are captains and junior Crystal Perham is assistant captain. Zoe Cange, Lucia Verdon, Kylee Goodell, Emma Johnson, Kyran Allen and Alison Usher round out the squad.
Moore knows the reality of distancing is different for a larger school like Rutland, where her friend and longtime HRH coach Cara Gauvin has higher enrollments.
Even with the large roster, Rutland handled the need for social distancing well.
“Our joy rugs are six feet wide, so they’re almost always six feet apart,” Gauvin said. “It was very easy for us to distance ourselves socially.”
Like in Mill River, the athletes at RHS are happy to have a season and are doing all they can to keep it going.
“The team got together. Everyone is going through the same difficulties right now, ”Gauvin said. “They knew how to follow the protocols.”
Rutland has had the joy of fall, although different from what she normally does, but Mill River hasn’t had the joy of fall this year.
“They haven’t been on the floor with me since March so it was good to see each other again,” Moore said of the start of practice earlier this month.
Lack of stunting and voice routines is a tough pill for coaches to swallow, but they do the best they can with what they can.
“We’re a stunted team so it’s hard not to do that, but we’re also a good tumbling team,” said Moore. “The team is working hard to pick up on the important factors you need in cheerleading.”
“Stunting is something that makes it more exciting.” Said Gauvin. “It will be a more difficult year for the coaches and the choreographers.
“We have a bit of an advantage because we are a relatively strong team. Tumbling can be more difficult for children due to the stamina you need. Very few teams have a lot of tumblers. “
Gauvin, who is in her 26th year at the helm of RHS, has 19 daughters on her roster, which is a bit less than she normally has. Four of these girls are elderly.
“I feel for them. It wasn’t what they expected in their senior year, ”Gauvin said of the seniors. “Everyone is happy to be able to applaud. It would have been worse if they didn’t have it.
Moore highlighted the importance of the school spirit for his team at Mill River and how it is even more accentuated in the unfamiliar climate this season.
“They have a sense of honor towards their school. They don’t just rejoice for themselves, but for the other teams they usually cheer on, ”she said.
Both teams also have an eye on the prize. Both of these awards have lived in Rutland County for the past few years and Rutland and Mill River would like to see this continue.
“We are expected to do well and to do our best on the mat,” said Gauvin. “They want to defend their title. We can’t wait to get started. “
All meetings will be virtual and the state meeting is scheduled for March 20.
Follow on Twitter: @AAucoin_RH
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