Elkhart High School cheerleaders are headed to Nationals despite another season amidst the pandemic

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ELKHART, Ind. --We all see cheerleaders supporting their school’s football and basketball teams, but now it’s our turn to cheer on some local cheerleaders.

After battling two school years of schooling during the pandemic and a school merger, the Elkhart High School cheerleading team is competing at the 2022 National High School Cheerleading Championship this weekend.

Cheerleaders like Elkhart High school senior, Tsehai Bean, may have faced many challenges over the past several months, but are thankful they are able to continue doing something they love.

“COVID hasn’t been the greatest, but cheer has honestly been such a positive in my life,” says Bean.

The road to Orlando was not easy for this team. COVID exposures and contact tracing over the past several months have led to cancelled practices. Schooling can be moved to e-learning, but practicing stunts and tumbling passes must be done in person.

Absences at practice make it difficult for the team to support each other, figuratively and literally.

“I can’t be a flyer when you don’t have someone to lift you,” says Matalyn Kauffman, a senior.

Not only are stunts difficult, but the team has also found it challenging to keep their spirits high spirits while maintaining their athleticism.

“I feel like when we have to wear masks sometimes it really affects our energy level,” says senior, Domunique Bates.

“Trying to breathe through the mask, trying to say the words. We just try to push through it as much as we can.”

The pandemic, combined with the recent school merger, has forced the lions to roll with the punches. During the 2020-2021 school year, Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central High School athletics joined forces, ending a rivalry. The unification became official academically with a separate freshman division this past fall.

It turns out, forcing rival teams like the blazers and chargers to work together has turned the lions into a powerhouse.

"It was a new change like a fresh start; so many new people, so many new faces and most definitely so much more talent on the team," says Bates.

The experience for the team has not only strengthened their passion for cheer but also their bond as a team.

Bean said it best.

“It’s been a challenge but it’s honestly brought us closer together. "

Friday will be their second opportunity to perform on the national stage as they placed fourth in their division last year. The team is heading to nationals in Orlando, Florida early Friday morning.

If you’d like to show your support and watch their performance at 6 pm Friday, you can watch on the Varsity website or follow @elkhartcheerleading on Instagram.

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