LINCOLN CITY — With so much on the plates of north Lincoln County residents this year, it’s easy for many to think of athletics and team sports as little more than low-priority distractions.
But Tonia Anderson, founder and coach of Lincoln City Youth Cheerleading, can barely put into words how important training and practices have become for the 21 girls in her program during the pandemic and after the Echo Mountain Complex fire that ravaged the area in September.
“Sports are still so important to these kids,” Anderson said. “It’s so emotionally important to them. They live for it.”
That’s why in May, Anderson made the difficult decision to start up the program’s third season. Lincoln City Youth Cheerleading has been holding practices four times a week at Oceanlake Christian Church in Lincoln City. She said with added stringent cleaning protocols in place, each of the programs three teams have practice at separate times.
“When we first started up again in May, we really didn’t know how the pandemic was going to affect us going forward,” Anderson said. “We decided to keep pushing forward with a short break when the governor tightened things up before with gyms. But I have a really strong, family-bonded team, and despite the pandemic and the wildfires, we’re still pushing forward.”
On Saturday, Lincoln City Youth Cheerleading will compete in its first competition of the season, albeit virtually. The three LCYC teams — the Minis, composed of girls in kindergarten through second grade, Youths, made up of athletes in first through fifth grades, and Juniors in grades four through eight — will participate Saturday, Nov. 21, in the Spirit Spectacular Championships.
The event, based in Concord, Calif., begins at 1 p.m. Saturday and features divisions for jumps, standing tumbling, running tumbling, dance, and stunting. All three LCYC teams will compete in the dance portion of the competition.
Each of the LCYC teams will perform a two-minute, 30-second routine choreographed and set to music by Anderson. She said she won’t know exactly how many teams are scheduled to participate and the specific time the Lincoln City squads are slated to perform until later this week.
Anderson said her athletes have been working hard in preparation for the event and are generally excited for the chance to compete against other teams.
“When our practices are over I always hear from our kids, ‘is practice over all ready?’” Anderson said. “They’re really looking forward to this weekend.”
Each team competing in the dance competition will be scored on technique and synchronicity. Judges will choose the winner in each category, though score sheets will not be distributed, and choreography and creativity won’t be judged.
Teams will perform routines at set times to be assigned and will be required to have three cameras ready to film their live performance. Just prior to performing, the team will select the video camera to “spotlight” their performance with the idea to choose the camera with the best online connection.
Anyone interested can watch the competition online by visiting the event’s website, located at https://spiritspec.com, on the day of the event. Anderson encourages all Lincoln County residents to take some time on Saturday and root on their local team.
Though the Lincoln City Youth Cheerleading program is just a few years old, it’s already made its name known throughout the state. In February, the mini team won the “X-Small” division at the Oregon Cheerleading Coaches Association championships in Salem, and the juniors placed second in the X-Small division.
“We’re still pushing forward right now,” Anderson said. “We’re going to compete virtually this weekend, and we’re going to keep trying to make things happen after that.”