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Local woman cheers NBA team into finals

Columbia native and Memphis Grizzly Girl Kelly Rash performs a dance routine at a game.

Columbia Daily Herald
May 25, 2013

A Columbia woman sashayed her way from a small dance studio to the FedEx Forum — home of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies are in the NBA Western Conference Finals, and Columbia native Kelly Rash is primed to hype up the crowd as part of the “Grizzly Girl” dance team.

Rash graduated from Columbia Central High School in 2009. Her appreciation of dance began when she was 3 years old at the Columbia Dance Academy, where she continued lessons through high school.

After high school, Rash attended the University of Memphis where she joined the college’s Pom Squad. The team won a national title in the Universal Dance Association’s hip hop division.

That title gave her the confidence to try out for the Grizzlies in summer 2012.

“Auditioning was definitely nerve-racking,” Rash said. “The college world of dance is completely different from the professional NBA world of dance.”

After several tryouts, she made the team and is in her second season as a Grizzly Girl. One of her favorite parts is performing in the “Grindhouse,” the nickname given to the FedEx Forum by Grizzlies guard Tony Allen.

Rash said Memphis is “going crazy” right now because of its playoff appearance — high fives and camaraderie abound throughout the city.

Jim Rash, Kelly’s father, simply described his daughter as “amazing.” He credits her hard work and dedication for getting her to the professional level.

“We are really proud of Kelly for a lot of reasons,” her father said. “She is a go-getter.”

Kelly Rash currently is taking courses in dental hygiene at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She is slated to graduate in May 2014.

Juggling school and work is all about time management, but she is still able to find time for both.

“School is during the day, and the Grizzlies are at night,” Kelly Rash said.

The Grizzly Girl comes home to visit family when she gets a chance. Rash said she misses her dance studio — the place that started her on the right foot — most of all.

“Even though I get to perform for 18,000 people at the FedEx Forum, I still miss having recital at Columbia State and dancing in my small studio,” Kelly Rash said.

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