KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — COVID-19 stopped virtually all sports - the Olympics are now in 2021, the NCAA Tournament was cancelled and, just this week, Wimbledon was called off. The virus also affected the competitive cheerleading season and postponed the biggest and final competition of the season - The World Championships.
Teams from around the globe typically travel to Orlando, Florida the last weekend in April. This year, though, the championships are postponed. Three-time champions, Cheer Extreme Senior Elite, aren't letting the pause in their season slow them down. They've turned to virtual practices to keep their season going.
It's like nothing head coach and owner, Courtney Smith-Pope has seen before.
"The only thing I keep putting it towards is we've had athletes get hurt so they were out," she said. "But it certainly has never been a whole team."
The team of 36 girls in Kernersville is now practicing twice a week using Zoom - a digital video meeting platform. The outbreak came at a time when the team was on a roll. Senior Elite won three back-to-back national titles earlier this year, also known as winning the Triple Crown.
"Triple Crown is harder to win because it's three in a row against everybody in your division, athlete Camryn Young said.
"Yeah it's back to back," Reagan Holton added. "You have to show stamina by winning all three competitions."
The COVID-19 outbreak may have postponed the World Championship but didn't postpone their dreams of winning or their hard work.
"Everything came to a pause so quick that I think Worlds is going to come out to whoever works the hardest over the pause and whoever kept the right mindset over this period of time where we can't get in the gym," Alex Gammon said. "So I think that if we can stay focused and keep the same energy that we've had all season and we can win Worlds."
Virtual practices are an adjustment for Smith-Pope who hasn't missed two weeks of practice in a row since she started coaching at age 13.
"It's particularly hard on the days where you just can't wait to see him and I can't wait to see him in person see our pyramid again and just enjoy the things that we take for granted," she said.
Practices are not as effective as they are in the gym but they're a reminder that they're in this together.
"This team cares and loves about the sport in each other than anyone I've ever coached," Smith-Pope said. "If anybody was going to get through this is these girls."
Girls that know what matters isn't the sport, it's the team.