Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheering on the men on ice at Budweiser Events Center

Eagles Chicks host Loveland tryouts, hire 11 dancers for upcoming season
By Madeline Novey Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

Come October, the Colorado Eagles hockey team hits the ice for the start of another season. When it does, its players will have 11 new greatest fans.

The Eagles Chicks, the team's cheerleading squad, hosted tryouts Sunday at an ice-free and eerily quiet Budweiser Events Center.

And though the name was the same, Budweiser felt different for some of the more than 20 women who turned out.

"It's weird to see the stands so empty today," said 20-year-old Alysia Kamarath. "The fans make it worthwhile."

The junior Colorado State University communications major bore the title of Eagles Chick last season and was back for another go.

Also a former Eagle Chick looking to return, University of Colorado's Kerry Anne Keogh stood near Kamarath during one of several brief breaks throughout the hours-long tryouts. At 5-foot-10, Keogh played lacrosse, basketball and volleyball in high school.

She then got into dance, thanks to her friends.

In her experience dancing for other sports teams, fans were abrasive; they yelled inappropriate things, she said. But that's not the case with the Eagles.

"We just have the best fans," she said. "I've always felt so welcomed in this building."

As part of tryouts, the women -- ages 18 to 24 -- learned two dances and interviewed with a panel of judges.

In any one season, they learn one or two dance routines a week. That's upward of 30 per season, said former Eagles Chick and team choreographer Alyssa Pohm (or Stanton, after she marries on Saturday).

"It is intense," she said, as 16 dancers -- down from 23 after first-round elimination -- practiced steps over and over again to The Black Eyed Peas' "Don't Stop the Party." What makes it more difficult is that many of the dances will go into what Pohm called "the vault," or memory, for possible future use.

"You learn it, perfect it, and you're done," she said.

Rumors the Eagles would move to the East Coast Hockey League came true in May when head coach and general manager Chris Stewart announced the team would play as an ECHL expansion franchise for the 2011-12 season.

As a result, the team's schedule ramped up and puts the players on ice at home at the Budweiser Events Center more than 30 times, starting in October. The dancers do not travel with the team when it skates elsewhere.

Pohm said the team's increasing success has definitely attracted more talent to and interest in the dance squad.

"I hope to just keep that forward momentum, in terms of rigor and commitment of the team members," said Erica Koehler, the Eagles Chicks new dance manager. A member of the team a few years back, Koehler takes the place of Lisa Kennedy.

"You have something to live up to," she told the dancers sitting on the bleachers before the start of tryouts.

Eagles Chicks selections:
Alysia Kamarath
Amanda Bennett
Ashley Cowan
Amy Menhennett
Emily Maginnis
Emily Ryon
Kayla Christian
Kathryne Richmond
Kerry Anne Keogh
Meghan Daly
Whitney Sarbaugh

Kayla Christian, 19, studies sport exercise science at the University of Northern Colorado and loves the energy of a big athletic event. And hockey, she said, brings something special to the table.

"It's just such a raw sport to watch," Christian said, taking a break before the second performance set.

A sophomore, Christian would like to pursue a short career in professional dance for sports teams, but plans to work as a physical therapist for professional athletes.

Until then, she's focused on supporting a team she loves.

"I call myself an Eagles fan, of course!" she said, laughing. Then she descended the bleacher stairs on the center's south side and joined her colleagues for another tryout performance.