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February 24, 2004

Everyday People: Deaf cheerleader Krystal Delacruz keeps the beat

From: The Desert Sun - Palm Springs,CA,USA - Feb 24, 2004

By Nelsy Rodriguez
The Desert Sun

Krystal Delacruz is like any other teen. She's smart, pretty, bites her nails, flips her hair, tells jokes and has tons of pictures.

The 17-year-old runs from Palm Desert High School to softball practice, then from there directly to stand at the base of a competitive cheerleading squad.

When the squad is in competition Delacruz is ready. She knows the entire dance and knows all the stunts like second nature.

But when the music starts, she waits for the girls in front of her to initiate the movement.

While the other cheerleaders are dancing to a funky beat, Delacruz is keeping her own rhythm from the vibrations in the gym.

Delacruz doesn't hear a note of the Madonna mix.

Delacruz is deaf.

"At first it was frustrating," she said in sign language through the interpretation of her mother, Shey Delacruz. "But now? Nah."

Delacruz lost all ability to hear when she was 3 years old from chronic ear infections, her mother said. But growing up Delacruz never acted impaired.

"She's one of the rare deaf kids who does not see herself as at a disadvantage," Shey Delacruz said of her daughter. "Kristy's just always kind of put herself out there."

Since she was younger, Delacruz has been playing left field. This year she wants to start pitching.

But the sport wasn't enough.

When she came with the proposal to try out for cheerleading her mother said for the first time with any activity she was slightly hesitant to let her daughter try.

And when she first called the Desert Valley All-Star Mavericks she avoided telling the coach that the girl she would be bringing by to try out was deaf until the end of the conversation.

"I worried about it with cheerleading," Shey Delacruz said. "I didn't want her to be disappointed. But she has to know what failure is too."

Luckily, Delacruz didn't have to learn that lesson that time.

Though tryouts were over, Delacruz was given a chance and made the squad.

"I went 'Oh my God,' " her mother said.

Now in her second year on the team, Delacruz said she's taken rookies under her wing and shown some who are struggling to learn the routines how to make it work right.

"It's fun," she said. Delacruz said she gets a little nervous "with huge crowds, but once we get started the show is on."

She said when her coach, who also communicates in sign language, isn't at practice she runs into some difficulties. But she just works harder to keep up with squad.

"That's her thing," Shey Delacruz said about her daughter's dancing skills. "Watching."

Though being on the squad isn't cheap, Shey Delacruz said if her daughter's willing to do it, she's willing to let her.

And one day, maybe soon, Delacruz may actually get to hear the songs she's been cheering to.

Shey Delacruz said her daughter's only a few appointments shy from getting a cochlear implant, which could restore some hearing.

"She'll be able to hear things she hasn't been able to hear since birth," Shey Delacruz said. "It's looking pretty positive. It will give me a little peace of mind."

But Delacruz is not looking for peace of mind. She's looking for more to do between a packed schedule. In fact she tries to be more places than her mother can drive her to, which is why mom put her foot down.

"My mom won't let me try out for the dance team," Delacruz said.

Copyright © 2004 The Desert Sun.