Hundreds of high school football games were played Friday night and even a few college hoops matchups, but cheerleaders might have taken home the biggest victory.
The California Department of Public Health on Friday reversed its decision that had banned cheerleading squads from being at sporting events.
Vista High School took the field Friday for its first game, and its cheer squad took their positions on the sideline for their first time this year, too.
The CDPH’s original ban put cheer in the same category as band, drumline and other supporting groups, but cheerleading coaches and parents across the state kicked off spirited email and social media campaigns that proved effective.
“I want to show them we are coming back stronger and that we are super excited to show off what we've been practicing,” Vista High School Panthers Cheer captain Ariana Ferrufino said.
Squad coach Erika Shrader remembers March 13, 2020, vividly. It was the say sports were canceled because of the pandemic.
"We were all together in the classroom, we had no idea we would not see each other for a whole entire year,” Shrader said.
The team stayed sharp with practices over Zoom calls, and many team members learned routines on their own.
While their hasn’t been much to cheer about over the last 12 months, cheerleaders and the fans in the stands are thankful for their presence now.
"Its been a little rough but this is great. If it's only two games, it's only two games,” cheer parent Melissa Polich said.
Vista's abbreviated season comes with fewer games and fewer fans, but that doesn't seem to bother Ferrufino.
“We're not going to have the powerhouse, we won't have the student body, but we are going to have parents that are super excited and cheering us on as well,” the captain said.
State regulations say regular COVID-19 testing is not required for cheerleaders like it is for coaches and players. They do wear masks, practice distancing and hand washing during events.
Many of the members of the squad are seniors this year, so this year, however brief, is a big deal.
“I feel like this is a good step forward toward going back to normality and slowly getting adjusted into life before COVID,” Ferrufino said.
Masks may hide their faces, but not their spirit.