The final 51 applicants sweated out the latest round of Buccaneers Cheerleaders tryouts on Wednesday evening
As dance music echoed off the gymnasium walls at the Academy of the Holy Names Wednesday evening, more than 50 women danced and spun across the gym floor. Each one was putting her best foot forward in an attempt to nab a coveted spot on the 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders squad.
Wednesday's events were actually the penultimate step in several weeks worth of auditions. The Buccaneers Cheerleaders tryouts began in earnest last Saturday with more than 350 women showing up to register for a chance to cheer on the Bucs. Over the course of the week, that number has been pared down to 51, and the final group of 28-32 women will be named on Friday at noon.
From warm-up exercises, endless high kicks and extensive routines to photo shoots, interviews and solo auditions, it has been a stressful process, to say the least.
Barbara Hancock may be a familiar face to Bucs fans, as she has been a member of the squad each of the past three seasons. She is back in 2008 trying to nail down her spot on the team again. Obviously, she has been through the entire audition process before, but Hancock insists that it never gets any easier.
"I think that having been on the team has made me improve my dance skills, my appearance and my overall health, both mentally and physically," Hancock said. "I think that in that way it prepares you [for the next tryouts], but you're never guaranteed a spot and you always have to come in doing the best you can and hope for the best."
Kristin McTaggart is another of the final 51 women vying for a spot, but unlike Hancock, this is McTaggart's first chance to go through the audition experience. She said the process has been a trying one.
"It's been a really stressful and physically and emotionally exhaustive past few days," McTaggart said.
The auditions are not only difficult on the prospective cheerleaders. The Bucs staffers tasked with making the final verdict on who will represent the team in 2008 are faced with a series of very challenging decisions.
Sandy Charboneau, the Bucs' cheerleading manager, said the tryouts are no easier from her side of the equation.
"There are so many things you're looking for," Charboneau said. "You're looking for a beautiful, smart, well-rounded, talented woman who is going to represent the Buccaneers organization and represent it well."
And the women hoping for the chance to do just that are well aware of the opportunity that may await them. Hancock, already a veteran Buccaneers cheerleader, said that knowledge is what drives her to make the team yet again.
"Personally, the auditions have been a little bit more stressful just because I know what a wonderful opportunity I've had and I know how much I have to lose, because I've been there," Hancock said.
Despite the fact that many of the women giving it their all throughout the week won't end up earning a spot on the 2008 squad, many agreed that the difficult week they've gone through has still been well worth it.
"Pretty much the most rewarding experience is when you make it through a cut and you hear your number," McTaggart said. "You're like, 'Oh my God, that's me.' You're excited, but still you have to know that you're moving on to another phase which is going to be more challenging and seeing more girls at your level. They're all beautiful and they're all physically fit and ready to go just as much as you are."
One last day of auditions awaits the final 51 women on Thursday, but be sure to check back with Buccaneers.com on Friday at noon to meet the lucky women who will make up the 2008 Buccaneers Cheerleaders.