The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has announced its executive committee has approved a capacity limit at its competitive cheerleading state championships scheduled for March 5 at Gordon Fieldhouse on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology.
The decision to keep the capacity limit under 400 for the event will allow student-athletes to compete without the required vaccinations but does eliminate the ability to accommodate spectators.
The RIT policy does not require vaccinations or testing for anyone entering their facilities when the capacity is under 400. But the mask requirement would remain unchanged and be in full effect for the event.
"Due to membership concerns, the executive committee held an emergency meeting [Friday]," said Robert Zayas, the executive director for NYSPHSAA. "Although today’s action of the executive committee will result in spectators not being able to attend, all student-athletes will have the opportunity to represent their school and compete for the title of state champion."
According to Tom Combs, the executive director for Section XI, which governs Suffolk’s schools, the executive committee voted 18-4 in favor of the change to allow unvaccinated athletes to participate in the state cheerleading championships with no spectators.
"We’re very happy for all of our student-athletes as they will now be able to compete for the state championship without any worries about vaccinations," Combs said. "The competition will be live streamed on the NFHS network."
Combs was the driving force behind a change. His proposal in January to move the event to a venue with less restrictions was shot down by an 18-4 vote by the NYSPHSAA executive committee. "We had three options on the table," he said. "The first option was to try and move the event out of the Rochester Institute of Technology and to another venue in the Rochester area if they were unwilling to drop the vaccination requirement. The other options were to try and split the event into two sites and limit the number of spectators or keep the capacity limit to under 400 where vaccinations are not required and have no spectators. Several executive directors around the state, who originally voted against any change, had a change of heart and now we can accommodate everyone that qualified regardless of the vaccination."
The cheer competition will have a change in format to limit the number of people in the venue. There are now five separate sessions of competition with the finals in each division immediately following preliminary performances. A final schedule will be released following the qualification of all teams at www.nysphsaa.org.
The event can also be accessed online at www.nfhsnetwork.com.