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Area cheerleading teams to show off their skills at new fall championship

MONTPELIER — In late October, Vermont high school cheerleading teams will have the chance to compete for a new state title, Vermont Principals’ Association Associate Executive Director Bob Johnson said on Thursday.
Johnson, speaking on Aug. 23 to journalists on the VPA’s annual Media Day, said the fall event will have different scoring criteria than for the VPA’s winter championships.
On Oct. 22, the state’s cheer squads will gather at South Burlington High School to present routines that will be evaluated on how they perform what Johnson called “cheers done during a game day” and how the squads “get a crowd involved.”
According to a handout, “Teams are encouraged to showcase the best crowd-leading material for an offensive or defensive situation, a scoring situation, and a quarter cheer performance;” may use signs, pom-poms, flags or megaphones; and may tailor their performances to a sport of their choice. Cheer teams are also judged on acrobatics, lifts and synchronicity in winter championships.
“It’s going to be a very different type of competition,” said Johnson, who added VPA and backers of the sport hope the fall addition will help cheerleading grow in Vermont.
In other items discussed on Thursday:
•  All other fall championships except football (Nov. 12 at Rutland High School) will be decided on Nov. 5.  
•  A move is afoot to make golf a fall sport, not a spring sport. Johnson said the state’s golf courses are on board with the switch, which would allow high school golfers who play in the summer simply to keep playing, rather than pick up their clubs again in the spring. The weather is typically more cooperative in the fall, he said, and because fewer sports are offered in the fall more students might be able to participate. A final decision is due in November.
•  A new policy on schools’ recruitment of out-of-district athletes is also due in November, Johnson said. A VPA committee has been studying the issue for two years, and the VPA’s executive council is viewing a final draft. Johnson described it as “much more extensive” in dealing with private and public school recruiting. Johnson said details must wait until the policy is adopted, but one focus will be on how schools interact with students. “The key point is undue influence,” he said.
•  New pitch count rules for baseball pitchers will be in effect next spring. Johnson noted Vermont was in the forefront of states that adopted pitch count limits, but the new national rules will be slightly more restrictive than Vermont’s. “It’s ironic. They finally caught up with Vermont,” Johnson said.
•  Gymnastics remains in danger of losing its status as a VPA sanctioned sport due to lack of teams, Johnson said. The minimum is nine, a number reached this past season because U-32 revived its program. Montpelier is now organizing a team, however, and that effort, if successful, could offer the sport some breathing room. Backers of the sport also are arguing that the many independent athletes affiliated with the state’s existing teams effectively equal another team, Johnson said.
•  All high school coaches must now be trained in CPR, defibrillator use and in a team-wide medical Emergency Action Plan.
•  Johnson reported that August seminars for coaches on bullying, hazing and harassment sponsored by the VPA and the Vermont School Board Insurance Trust were well-attended and well-received. About 110 coaches attended one of three sessions, and the VPA intends to make the presentations an annual event, especially in the wake of recent high-profile hazing cases that included one involving the Milton football program.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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