Cheerleading declared a sport, traditional East Bay program threatened

BRENTWOOD, Calif. (KGO) -- Cheerleading is now recognized as a sport in California. It's a victory for cheerleaders who've long sought the recognition for their athleticism, but the distinction could actually hurt their programs as districts have funding obligations attached to "sports."

"IT's so incredibly exciting. We feel proud that we're now being recognized as athletes for all the hard work we put in," said Heritage High School varsity cheerleader Madyson Sutton. "We've been wanting this for a while and now we finally get the recognition we deserve."

The new state designation actually threatens the traditional cheer program in the Liberty Union High School District.

"The girls are athletes, so for that to be possibly taken away from us, we were devastated," said Heritage Varsity Cheer Coach Tatum Garcia.

As districts grapple with implimenting cheer as a sport, LUHSD's superintendent proposed cutting traditional cheer and implementing stunt cheer. It alarmed school board member Ray Valverde.

"I have no problem with that bringing it in, but you don't cut something else that's been succcessful in our district for years," Valverde said.

Traditional sideline cheer is more inclusive because more students can participate. Stunt teams are smaller.

"Stunt teams are very small," said Heritage senior Sarah Nunnink. "They allow up to 30 girls, but usually they're not that big at all. They're usually around 20, so less girls would be able to be on the team."

More colleges recognize traditional cheer for scholarships. Heritage High took 10th place at the national competition in Florida. Their coach says stunt cheer just isn't as established.

"We welcome other opportunities for our sport to be enhanced and have more opportunities for our athletes," Garcia told ABC7 News. "It's not on the same level, so we don't feel like it's an appropriate replacement."

The issue goes before the school board at next week's meeting. The superintendent could not be reached for comment.

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