IM this article to a friend!

March 20, 2004

First deaf cheerleading team heads to nationals

From: Tri-Valley Herald - Pleasanton,CA,USA - Mar 20, 2004

By Jennifer Kho STAFF WRITER

Saturday, March 20, 2004 - CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF students, teachers and administrators watched and signed well wishes early Thursday morning as their cheerleaders piled into white vans and headed for Southern California.

On Saturday, the cheerleaders will become the first deaf team ever to compete in the United Spirit Association's High School Spirit Nationals in Anaheim. They will compete against five other teams in their division and, if they place in the top three, they will compete again Sunday in the finals.

"I'm so excited," signed Ian Guzman, 16, a sophomore and one of the team captains. "This is important because we can show hearing people that we, as a deaf community, are very strong and we can do it."

Hearing people tend to focus on what deaf people can't do, he said, adding that he hopes this makes people more aware of what the deaf can accomplish, in cheerleading and beyond.

The team began entering hearing competitions two years ago, when Farrah Nolan became head coach. Not many deaf schools join hearing competitions, which typically have different rules and larger cheerleading teams.

"We didn't want to just stick to the deaf competitions," Nolan said. "We wanted them to experience the variety, and they've grown so much over the last year. They're more open and more knowledgeable about different kinds of people. They are learning so much."

Twice last year, the team entered regional competitions and narrowly missed qualifying for nationals. In November, about half of the 13-member team qualified in a regional competition in Fresno; the other half qualified at a competition in Antioch in January.

"When they competed in Fresno, we just knew after they had performed that they had made it," Nolan said. "It was a gut reaction. They ran off the floor and were jumping and crying."

The team has been practicing three hours every day in the past few weeks, working on tumbling passes, stunts and keeping their moves synchronized. The latter probably is the most difficult, Guzman said, because the cheerleaders have to rely on eye contact, vibrations and their memorization of the routines' pace and rhythm.

"We need to be in sync and keep our rhythm together because otherwise we look awful," he said.

"We have to go fast when the music goes fast and slow when the music goes slow, but that's hard because we can't hear. The hearing can follow the music more easily."

The team had a scare Tues-

day night when one cheerleader being held in the air fell on another cheerleader, Everett Glenn, who hit the ground and hurt his neck.

When Glenn went to the hospital, the coaches thought they would have to rearrange the whole routine and all the stunts during the last practice, but doctors diagnosed him with a muscle strain and said he could compete if he rested the rest of the week.

Nolan said her team has the same chances as any other in the nationals.

"They have the same challenges that the hearing have," she said. "Nerves, making sure they are watching each other and keeping in sync.

"They're going to need to be sure they're hitting their stunts -- timing really matters. But it's almost like they have ESP with each other. They communicate with each other without communicating. It's amazing -- I don't know how they do it."

©1999-2003 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers