COVID silences Pima Cheer

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Pima cheerleaders take part in the halftime entertainment last year. The Pima High School Spirit Line has been put on a 14-day quarantine by the health department after one of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – The Pima Roughriders versus Thatcher Eagles football game is still a go Friday night, but the Roughriders will be missing an integral part of its ambiance – no cheerleaders.

The Pima High School Spirit Line was quarantined for 14 days by the Graham County Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday after one of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

Tears flowed from the faces of many of the girls during a meeting with the health department after practice Wednesday when they learned they wouldn’t be able to participate in Friday’s game after working hard to perfect their stunts and routines.

Spirit Line Head Coach Jody Judd told the Gila Herald that the girls had been practicing a special patriotic USA dance number since August for this opening game.

“There’s some big stunts that these girls have been working hard on and not being able to do it is going to be pretty hard for them,” Judd said. “It’s going to be emotional come Friday when they know they just really can’t be there.”

Judd said the team had followed AIA regulations regarding the use of masks, however, they are not required to use them while they practice their stunts, which is likely why the entire team was quarantined.

“We were all taken aback by it,” Judd said. “I know how disappointed and sad they all are . . . All the girls have worked so hard since we started cheer.”  

Contributed Photo: Pima Cheerleader Ashley Velasquez performs a routine at state. The team will not be able to cheer at Pima’s first two games due to being on a 14-day quarantine.

The infected cheerleader’s last day of exposure to team members was Thursday, and she did not attend school this week.

With the quarantine, the Pima Cheer team will miss the opening game against Thatcher.

Judd said she plans on utilizing Zoom to meet as a squad and keep up on their routines, but that the team might not be able to all get together until after Pima’s Fall Break.

“What frustrates me is I just feel this is never-ending,” Judd said. “It’s like, we come back and somebody could get it . . . If one of the cheerleaders get it or somebody close to them, do we have to quarantine again?”

The team will possibly be available for Pima’s third game of the season versus the Benson Bobcats in Pima on Friday, Oct. 16, but with Pima’s Fall Break scheduled for Oct. 12 – 16 and with a number of cheerleaders going away on vacation, Judd isn’t sure if they will be able to perform.

If they miss the Benson game, the Spirit Line will only be able to appear at one home football game this season.

“I texted them all and said ‘stay positive. This just gives us more time to get better and be more amazing.’”

UPDATE: According to a text message from head coach Jody Judd to cheerleaders, the squad is expecting to travel to perform at the St. Johns game next Friday.