Coach Tammy Dufford has heard it so many times, the old line that high school cheerleaders are among the most judgmental people around.
"Generally, high school cheerleaders are known to be an elitist sort of group and kind of exclusive," said Dufford.
However, Dufford says she had no doubt her girls would accept a fellow cheerleader with different abilities. Someone like freshman Megan Bomgaars, who has Down Syndrome.
Bomgaars is new to Evergreen this year. One of the first things she did was march into Dufford's office and announce she intended to be a cheerleader. And she now is an Evergreen cheerleader.
"I just want to have friends at school," Bomgaars said.
And she has found those friends in her fellow cheerleaders at her new school.
"I love this place," she said.
Bomgaars is a smiling and enthusiastic face on the football sidelines, but sometimes struggles to keep pace with her teammates quick moves and rapid cheers.
This is the time of the season when teams, including Evergreen, go from cheering at games to competing at tournaments.
Megan's mother, Kris, expected that her daughter would travel with the cheerleading team, but not compete.
"She said, 'Tammy, I totally understand if you don't think Megan can be part of that. I don't want her to bring down the girls' scores," Dufford recalled.
Dufford checked with state cheerleading officials. She says they informed her there is no direct precedent of a cheerleader with Down Syndrome competing in mainstream tournaments. Dufford says she was told it would be up to judges on how to handle the situation.
The coach left the final decision up to her players. No discussion was necessary. They insisted that Bomgaars remain on the team for the competitive portion of the season.
"We always just assumed she'd be right there with us," said cheerleader Katy Evezich. "She's part of the team."
"We could get graded off if she's a little bit off on her dance," said cheerleader Stephanie Dufford. "But we'd rather have her on the squad and get a lesser score than not have her at all."
For a group that's supposed to be so concerned with judging, they sure don't seem to care.
The Evergreen High School cheerleaders, every one of them, will compete in the Jefferson County League Tournament Wednesday at Columbine High School.
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