Deaf cheerleaders make themselves heard in national competition

December 31, 1992|By The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It wasn't a typical cheerleading squad.

The four cheerleaders danced to Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You." The music suddenly stopped and they launched into a cheer.

They held up three cardboard signs that read, "We can't hear." Then they signed the cheer.

The music started again and their coach and school audiologist Teri Bellis signaled them to start dancing.

"I am their music," she said. "They don't hear, so I count for them."

It was the first time the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind cheerleading squad had participated in a national competition.

"The concept of a deaf cheerleader is one not easily understood," Ms. Bellis said.

But this crowd of about 300 understood the squad just fine. As soon as they finished the routine, the cheerleaders received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Colorado school was one of the 45 squads from 15 states participating Tuesday and yesterday in the sixth annual Dynamic Cheerleading Association National Championships in downtown Kansas City.

Junior high and high school teams were selected at summer cheerleading camps sponsored by the association.

Linda Chappell, president of the association, said she thought the competition helped the squads gain confidence as well as skills.

"The kids work hard all year, and this is a chance to put their skills to the test," she said. "They are in a support role in the school, and this is their chance to be in the spotlight."

Each squad had to perform a five-minute routine before a panel of 10 judges. As the teams -- ponytails spinning -- yelled, danced and flipped, the judges gave points in 10 areas including choreography, stunts and creativity.

Kansas and Missouri State High School Activities Associations' rules prohibited Kansas and Missouri schools from participating in the competition.

The cheerleading association awarded trophies in four categories: junior high, large varsity, small varsity and coed varsity.

The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind won fifth place in the small varsity division.

Kevin Harrer, who also is quarterback for the school's football team and one of the few males in the championships, said the team had accomplished what it set out to do.

"We wanted to show everyone in America that deaf people can do everything but hear," he said.

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