The crowd roars and the sound of a chainsaw is heard in the background cutting off a cookie of wood symbolizing a touchdown as the NAU Cheer team does what they do best: cheer. 

Now, in the middle of a pandemic, the cheer team meets virtually, practicing and working out together via Zoom. Senior President Becky Wanca said this transition has been difficult because cheer is a hands-on contact sport.

“I think as hard as this situation has been, there have been some positives,” Wanca said. “This situation has shown how resilient this team really is. It has shown that this team can go through anything and yet we will come out stronger on the other side. The main thing to be learned, not just for my team but society as a whole, is that we don’t need to be physically together to feel like a family and I think that is a pretty beautiful thing.”

Senior Vice President Faith Taylor said the transition to online has been difficult and different, but it is important to keep their team dynamic and build bonds like they usually would.

Taylor said their online practices include a team workout, bonding by splitting into breakout rooms, and a game to keep the spirits high. 

“Because of COVID-19, one of our extra goals this year has been to give people on the team an outlet from all of the chaos surrounding everyone,” Taylor said. “We strive to provide each and every person with a reminder that we are all in this together and that we are all here for one another.”

As a senior on the team, Wanca said it has been hard without her usual outlet of cheerleading, but the team is making the best of it.

“Throughout my entire life, I have always had this channel that allows me to destress, so this semester has been quite different for me,” Wanca said. “I am graduating in the spring, so I am looking forward to hopefully being able to cheer at games, go to appearances and have a somewhat normal last semester. But even if that does not happen, I am looking forward to strengthening the bonds I have with my teammates already and building bonds with the new athletes on the team.”

It is without question COVID-19 has affected many people at NAU, either directly or indirectly. 

Taylor said she didn’t expect her senior year to begin like this and she would have liked to have a normal season, but it is important for her team to be safe.

“Although this is not quite how I pictured my senior year, I am very lucky to get to be a part of this team,” Taylor said. “This team is filled with some of the most genuine boys and girls I have ever met and I can see that each one of my teammates wants the best for the team. It bums me out that our first years, and even our returning cheerleaders cannot have a normal season because I would love to get that full experience with this team. But because everyone is so positive, we have all made this the best that we can and I am very grateful for this team.”

While NAU cheer has been practicing remotely, Taylor said if they get the chance, they are ready to take protocols to keep the team safe. 

As of now there is no plan to meet in-person, but she said the squad is looking ahead.

“A few things in our protocol include doing a health screening before any time we meet, guaranteeing that bags and cheerleaders are at least six feet apart from one another, everybody bringing their own water bottle, mask-wearing and more,” Taylor said. “We will continue to take the necessary steps to hopefully getting to be together one day, but for now, we are all on the same page of ensuring the safety of one another.”

With the football season pushed to the spring, the cheer team is looking forward to returning to the field, but for now, their focus is on unity and being prepared for what is to come.