Wakefield High School cheerleaders like Karlin Haskins run, condition and practice two hours every day. Few would question whether the boys or girls are athletes, but some question whether cheerleading should be considered a sport.
"To me, it's always been a sport no matter what people think," Haskins said.
Wake County school officials said they decided to call cheerleading a sport to control its rising costs.
"We felt like we needed to put out some guidelines for the coaches to make sure that we, at least, had control of this," Wake County athletic director Bobby Guthrie said.
Before parents had to pay thousands of dollars for uniforms, entry fees and travel expenses, which limited who could participate. Now, as a sanctioned sport, Wake County covers some of the costs. District-sponsored fund-raising pays the rest.
"[It] puts us more on an even-playing field now because it's going to be more affordable for everybody to participate," cheerleading coach Tobie Haskins said.
It is a move Wakefield cheerleaders say will ultimately improve their sport.
"I think the talent level will go up now, since everyone will have a chance to," cheerleader Stephanie Heiner said.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association recognizes cheerleading as an activity, not a sport. However, for the first time this fall, it is putting on a state cheerleading championship.
In the year 2000, officials said there were approximately 6.8 million cheerleaders in America, practicing an average of six hours a week. In 2001, there were almost 13,000 cheerleaders in North Carolina high schools.
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