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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Deaf cheerleaders tops in contests
Deaf cheerleaders tops in contests | greenbaypressgazette.com | Green Bay Press-Gazette
The past school year was an exciting one for 17-year-old Shaniqua Felton of Green Bay, who achieved national success on her varsity basketball cheerleading team.
As a sophomore at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delevan, Felton has been part of the two-person team for the past three years. This year, Felton and Nick Shaw of Sun Prairie won two awards in their first competition against hearing cheerleading squads.
In March, the team was invited to the Cardinal Classic competition in Sun Prairie to compete against squads that are not hearing impaired.
"This was a different challenge," Felton said, because they had to learn and adjust to new routines.
While deaf competitions separate cheer and dance into two routines, hearing competitions combine the routines.
Coach Amber Havers, who is also deaf, explained how her team uses American Sign Language to communicate during cheers.
"I communicate with them the timing of the music so they can keep pace," Havers said. "For some music, I give them the eight counts for them to dance to."
Shaw signs the words of the cheers, does the motions with Felton three times, and then signs the words again at the end, Havers said. Some chants, however, have signs included in the chant, she said.
Felton said she was not nervous during the competitions.
"I was really charged," she said. "It was really exciting."
Felton and Shaw won first place in cheer dance, and third place in small varsity coed.
"The fact that we won trophies at our first hearing competition was awesome for us," Havers said.
It wasn't the sole accomplishment for the team in the past year.
Earlier in the year, the team attended the Central States Schools for the Deaf basketball and cheerleading tournament in Columbus, Ohio, which was hosted by the Ohio School for the Deaf. Felton and Shaw competed against five other teams, each with three to six cheerleaders.
Felton's team won first place and was named champions.
Felton said she was "so excited" to receive first place. They had to learn many different dances, she said, and everything had to be in sync.
"Everyone was laughing and happy," Felton said.
The team also attended the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf tournament in Sulphur, Okla., where they took second place against much bigger teams.
"I have to pinch myself to believe that they won all the awards," Havers said.
During the summer, Felton is practicing on her own and staying in shape for next year.
"I'm looking forward to the fall," she said.
Havers said she also is looking forward to the fall because their success has created more interest and members to the squad.
"I feel like we showed that it's not how many athletes you have on the team, but how well they perform," Havers said.
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller