A Chickasaw woman’s dream has come true. And she’ll get to share it with thousands.
Katie Callaway will cheer on basketball pros and fans as a member of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder’s dance team.
“I am so excited,” Callaway said in a news release. “I can’t wait to get on those sidelines and entertain the best fans of any city with an NBA team.”
Callaway, 26, sat in the stands as a fan for six years before she decided to try out. But, she didn’t make the team on her first try.
“I worked hard, very hard, to improve my technique,” Callaway said reflecting on the failed effort. “I worked on leaps, turns, and pointed toes. It was a full-on effort for a year. It was tough.”The final audition process consisted of three rounds: a choreographed routine, a question and answer session, and a solo dance. Only 38 women were selected as finalists from nearly 100 hopefuls. The group of 38 was eventually narrowed down to 20.
She auditioned at the Riverwind Casino in Norman, Oklahoma in front of a packed house. Now that she’s one of the 20 Thunder Girls, Callaway is looking forward to the team’s first game in November.
“I wondered what it would be like to be down there. I wondered how exciting it was for the team and how much they looked forward to it,” she said in the news release.
Callaway is an Oklahoma resident. She attended Ada High School where she was a cheerleader, but she was born in England where her father was stationed in the U.S. Air Force. Her mother is Chickasaw and works for the Chickasaw Nation. For years, her grandfather, Jack Wells, served as a Chickasaw tribal legislator and her great-grandmother, Delta Wells, was an original enrollee with the tribe.
“We’d go to festivals and I was a member of the Governor’s Honor Club,” Callaway said. “I learned my heritage is important and tradition is important. It is essential to know one’s self. I am very proud of my Chickasaw heritage.
But, Callaway won’t quit her day job. She’s a drilling engineer technician with Chesapeake Energy where she analyzes drilling for natural resources. She started working there as a receptionist and moved up rather quickly. Callaway is also a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond where she studied public relations.
Not only is she excited about cheering on the fans, but as a Thunder girl, Callaway will also have a chance to work with her community. “Being a part of the organization will give me that opportunity to give back, which is something I’m looking forward to very much.”
By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
August 21, 2013
MOORE — Three months ago Katie Jones was sitting in class at Moore High School waiting on graduation just like any other high school senior. At the time, she was looking forward to getting on with her future.
Jones’ future took a pleasant detour Thursday when she was selected to be part of the 2013-14 Thunder Girls dance team. She joins 19 other young women who will represent Oklahoma City’s NBA franchise inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and the community at large during the upcoming NBA season.
“I don’t even know how to react right now,” Jones said. “It’s still processing in my brain. I’m so excited to cheer for the best team in the whole nation this whole season. I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”
Jones wasn’t the only Moore native to make the team. Sarah Jackson and Lateshia Dockery also heard their names called.
Katie, Lateshia, and Sarah
“This was my first time trying out,” Jackson said. “I felt I had good chance because I went to classes and went to training. I was prepared to the best of my ability. I feel like I did everything I possibly could. And I had faith it was enough to make the team.”
The selection process began last week when the Thunder held open tryouts at the team’s training center in Edmond. From that group, 38 women reached Thursday’s final audition in front of a packed house at Riverwind Casino.
“The Thunder Girls serve as ambassadors for our team, both on and off the court,” said Paige Carter, who enters her third season as the dance team’s manager and choreographer. “We are excited to have a group of young women who not only are great dancers, but also can engage with our community of fans to form a positive connection with our team.”
The 38 competitors were whittled down to a final 20 after two hours of competition that consisted of three rounds: a choreographed jazz/hip-hop routine, a question-and-answer session and a solo dance.
“I tried to give myself the benefit of the doubt,” Jones said. “There are so many beautiful and so many talented girls. So I really was intimidated a little bit. But I went out there and did what I love and it paid off.”
Jackson had the same reaction.
“Never in a million years did I think I would ever be a Thunder girl,” Jackson said. “And the fact that I did, and I just achieved one of my dreams, I’m ecstatic. I can’t even believe it. I’m so happy. Honestly, I have been training for this for months now. And the fact I did the best I could and left it all out on the floor and I made it, it’s just a dream come true.”
Of the 20 women, 11 return from last year’s squad. That includes Dockery, who is entering her sixth season. She’s made the squad every year since the Thunder first arrived in Oklahoma City in 2008.
“I think every year it’s different,” Dockery said. “I’m really excited to start the new season. We have a bunch of new girls and I’m just excited about the talent. I think every year I try to push myself to get better and better. I get older every time and I know these young girls come in and are so full of energy and have a lot of talent. So I just try to step up my game and push myself.”
While Moore will be very well represented on the team, this will mark the first year the team doesn’t include any performers from Norman.
“To make it my first year is really exciting,” Jones said. “My mom was hysterical. She was balling. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it because there were so many good veterans and other girls who had tried out in previous years that didn’t make it all the way through. But I went out there and did what I did. I guess I impressed them.”
The regular season begins Oct. 31 and the Thunder first play at home Nov. 3 when the Phoenix Suns visit Oklahoma City. The dance team, however, will begin representing the franchise much sooner than that.
“I think it’s going to be breathtaking,” Jackson said. “I don’t have any other words. I think it’s going to take my breath away. I’m just going to be in the moment and live in the moment.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org
Oklahoma City Thunder – Oklahoma City, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 – The Oklahoma City Thunder selected 20 women for its 2013-14 Thunder Girls dance team on Thursday night, the team announced today. Final auditions took place in front of a full house at the Showplace Theatre in Riverwind Casino.
Photo Gallery | Video | Meet the Team
Of the 20 ladies, 11 return from last year’s squad, joined by nine rookies. Three Thunder Girls – Jada, LaTeshia and Shereka – are headed into their sixth season on the squad.
“The Thunder Girls serve as ambassadors for our team, both on and off the court,” said Paige Carter, who enters her third season as the Thunder Girls dance team manager and choreographer. “We are excited to have a group of young women who not only are great dancers, but also can engage with our community of fans to form a positive connection with our team.”
A panel of judges, including Gary England of News 9, Miss Oklahoma Kelsey Griswold, and Joey and Heather from WILD 104.9, assisted Thunder staff in making the final selections.
The final audition process consisted of three rounds: a choreographed jazz/hip-hop routine, a question-and-answer session and a solo dance.
Following last Saturday’s open auditions, 38 women were selected as finalists for Thursday’s event from an initial group of nearly 100 hopefuls. During the week, finalists took part in formal interviews and rehearsals to prepare for the finals.
The Thunder Girls are presented by Riverwind Casino. Members of the team make more than 200 appearances each year throughout the community and have served as ambassadors for the team at home and overseas. More information about the team is available at THUNDER.NBA.COM. Fans can also get updates on Facebook (facebook.com/thundergirls), Twitter (@thundergirls) and Instagram (@okcthundergirls).
Cheerleaders from Japan at the P-R-O Convention
Kei of the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls
Oklahoma City Thunder Girl Jessica
OKLAHOMA CITY, Friday, August 03, 2012 – The Oklahoma City Thunder announced the 2012-13 Thunder Girls dance team Thursday night at Riverwind Casino in Norman. Judges selected 20 ladies to be on next season’s squad. More than 1,000 fans attended the live event.
The final team consists of women from Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and as far away as Japan. This year’s team includes 12 veterans and 8 rookies.
*Click here for individual photos of this year’s team
The audition process began last Saturday, on July 28, with more than 100 hopefuls. The process included preliminary tryouts, interviews and practices. Thirty-eight girls performed Thursday night for a spot on the team. Judges included Wayne Coyne, Miss Oklahoma 2012 Alicia Clifton, Joey and Heather from WILD 104.9 HD and Thunder officials.
“This year’s talent and caliber exceeded my expectations,” said Thunder Girls manager and choreographer Paige Carter. “It was a difficult selection process for us to narrow it down to 20 members. I’m confident these ladies will uphold the standards and character it takes to be an ambassador for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA.”
The Thunder Girls make more than 200 appearances throughout the region for the Thunder at community and sponsorship events. The 2012-13 Thunder Girls are as follows (last names are not used so as to protect privacy):
Hometown: McAlester, Okla.
Hometown: Edmond, Okla.
Hometown: Moore, Okla.
Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
Hometown: Choctaw, Okla.
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
Hometown: Madison, Wis.
Hometown: Hayes, Kan.
Hometown: Chiba, Japan
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Hometown: Moore, Okla.
Hometown: Dowagiac, Mich.
Hometown: Layton, Utah
Hometown: Del City, Okla.
Hometown: Waco, Texas
Hometown: Cyril, Okla.
Hometown: Muskogee, Okla.
Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
38 Headed to Finals
More than 100 talented ladies spent Saturday vying for spots in the Thunder Girls Finals, presented by Riverwind Casino. When the preliminary auditions were finished, 38 dancers made the cut. The public is invited to the Finals, Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at Riverwind, doors open at 6. PHOTOS | VIDEO | THUNDER GIRLS FACEBOOK
When I first received notification that I would be attending the P-R-O Convention, I started doing my research and scanned the listing of squads that would be in attendance. One of the new squads was the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls and I was excited to see who they would bring to P-R-O. There are many NFL squads, but only a few NBA teams in attendance, so I was looking forward to photographing them. And I was not disappointed as there were several girls that stood out for their beauty and tremendous dance ability.
In this edition, we feature one Oklahoma City Thunder Girl…Jessica, whose beauty and talent was readily evident.
An Oklahoma City Thunder Girl – It’s Christmas in July!
Click here to check out Sports Illustrated’s new photos of the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls in action!
The Thunder Girls have updated their page with lots of new individual photos. Go check it out!
[OKC Thunder Girls]
by Karina Henderson
If you didn’t hear the sound of jingling silver bells Wednesday afternoon at Sooner Elementary, then you probably could have used a ride on “The Polar Express.”
You would have had company on board the “train” when it left the school that afternoon: about 40 kids ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade (all dressed in their pajamas), a few fifth-grade “helper elves” and four Thunder Girls reading aloud the original Chris Van Allsburg book.
The Thunder Girls joined this magical journey as part of the Thunder’s Reading Timeout program, presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company.
“I walked in not really knowing what to expect, and it was incredible,” said Roy Bishop of American Fidelity. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
At the entrance to a classroom hall stood a locomotive and an overflowing toy car, with a fifth-grader stationed to punch each child’s ticket before they boarded for their journey.
Inside, school staff transformed the narrow hallway into a train bound for the North Pole, just like in the book. The lights were covered, and Christmas lights mimicked starlight on the night train. Each seat was covered in red felt with gingerbread men and Christmas trees sewn on the back.
Holiday music played softly, and train whistles blew quietly, as though in the distance. Frosted windows hung on the paper-wrapped walls with snowflakes and icicles and countryside views.
Once each child took their seat on the train, Thunder Girls Alexis, Kelsey, LaTeshia and Sheri began to read the book about a child’s journey to meet Santa Claus.
“This is just like the movie that we watched!” exclaimed one child after the story began.
Marybeth Gann, one of the teachers who set up the event, said this is the ninth year the school has created a “Polar Express” experience like this, but that they try to do a little more with it every year. This year’s biggest change was asking the Thunder Girls to take part.
“We have so many fans of the Thunder basketball team here (that) we thought (there’s) nobody better than to ask the Thunder Girls to come and read our ‘Polar Express’ story this year,” said Gann.
“The kids really, really look up to … anybody from Thunder Basketball. To get them to come out here – just the looks on (the kids’) faces, they were thrilled. It means so much, and I think we’ll be talking about this for the rest of the school year,” she added.
When the ladies finished the story, which focuses on a gift of a bell from Santa’s sleigh, they asked the children to jingle the silver bells each had been given with their train ticket.
The bells all jingled, and everyone heard their happy sounds – a sign, according to the book’s legend, that they still believed in Santa Claus.
“I still hear my bell, and I’m actually going to be ringing it all day ‘cause I believe,” laughed LaTeshia.
“The kids … are so excited about reading, which makes us excited to come out and read a book to them – and be a part of this awesome experience.”
She noted that the transformation of the school into a storybook train created a richer environment for the kids to engage their imaginations.
“I think they really thought they were on a train and they believed that they were going to the Polar Express, so it was really fun for us to see how engaged they were,” she added.
The Omaha Beef announce Carmen Butler, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, Dallas Mavericks Dancer, and Dance Team Manager and Choreographer for the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls, as the new Director for the Omaha Beef Prime Dancers.
Carmen, a Nebraska native, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Education Degree. In addition to her dancing career, Butler has worked as a special education teacher in Nebraska, Texas, and Maryland.
Butler began her professional dance career in 2000 with the Omaha Beef, where she danced for five years, earning the leadership role of co-captain. In 2005, she realized her dream of becoming a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. “I always wanted to become a Cowboys Cheerleader. They represent the gold standard of pro sports entertainment, the very best. I am looking forward to bringing that same level of professionalism and prestige to the Omaha Beef Prime Dancers,” Butler said. During her three years as a Cowboys Cheerleader, she was selected as a group leader, named veteran of the year, and facilitated cheerleading camps and other community events. From 2008-2009, Butler was a dancer for the Dallas Mavericks where she was selected best in appearances. During the 2010-2011 NBA season, Carmen was the Dance Team Manager and Choreographer for the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls and the junior dance team, The Raindrops.
Butler states, “It’s a great honor to be back with the Omaha Beef where my professional dance career began. I’m excited about the opportunity to continue to develop the Prime Dancers’ profile within games and in the Omaha community. I am looking forward to working with this talented group of women.” Josh Roehr, General Manager for the Omaha Beef stated, “We are lucky to have Carmen on board with us. She brings a great deal of experience and professionalism and we are excited to have her.”
Butler will oversee the 2012 Prime Dancers audition process. Open auditions will be held at 24 Hour Fitness (2718 N. 118th Circle), beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 19th. The final round, including interviews, will be held on Sunday, November 20th, at 11:30 a.m.
According to Butler, “we are looking for talented, poised, charismatic, professional woman who are committed to entertaining our fans and representing the Omaha Beef through the community. I encourage any women with a passion and energy for entertaining to come try out. Don’t prejudge yourself. You never know what we might be looking for and you might be a perfect fit!”