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Endicott Student Joins New England Patriots Cheerleaders

By Christopher Hurley

Nicole Manelas is gearing up for game day.

pats1 The Endicott College junior is one of the newest members of the New England Patriots Cheerleaders. Manelas is one of 11 rookies who made the 28-member squad, chosen from a field of 250 hopefuls who attended open auditions over the summer.

The Pelham, N.H., native will now be spending her Sundays on the sidelines, cheering on Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the defending Super Bowl champions in front a packed house of 68,000 at Gillette Stadium.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Manelas, 20. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, so to be able to dance for the four-time Super Bowl champs on the field is absolutely amazing.”

Manelas first introduced herself to the Foxborough faithful during a pair of exhibition games against the Green Bay Packers (Aug. 13) and the New York Giants (Aug. 27).

“The first time hitting that field was surreal,” Manelas said. “I used to be a fan coming to this stadium and now I was seeing it from a different perspective. It was just crazy. I used to watch the cheerleaders, now I’m one of them.”

“I thought it would be a lot scarier then it was,” she added. “But you get right into it.”

But the real fun came a little later, when the team kicked off it regular season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium. The pregame festivities were a top-notch affair, as Patriots Hall of Famers Ty Law, Troy Brown, Willie McGinist and team owner Robert Kraft, each took the field holding all four Vince Lombardi Super Bowl championship trophies.

“The opening ceremonies were really special,” said Manelas, who danced as T-Pain performed his hit ‘All I Do is Win.’ “The crowd was so excited, and there was just this amazing energy filling the stadium. Then the banner was revealed and chills ran through my body. Being able to be apart of that was an experience of a lifetime.”

pats2Manelas and her squad also got a great workout, performing after each touchdown in thrilling 28-21 opening night victory

”Being able to cheer on the New England Patriots from the sidelines is the best,” Manelas said. “I’m doing what I love for my favorite team.”

Humble beginnings

Manelas first picked up the pom-poms at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, N.H., where she was a cheerleader through her sophomore year. But her biggest love has always been in dance.

“I’ve just been drawn to it since I was little,” Manelas said. “It was always been something that I loved to do. It was an outlet to express myself and to get out some emotions. That’s pretty much what dance has been for me, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Manelas is currently majoring in Business Entrepreneurship at Endicott, with minor in dance. She was a member of the Gulls Dance team both her freshman and sophomore year, before trying out for the Patriots Cheerleaders during the offseason.

“I really didn’t expect to make the team the first time,” she admitted. ”Although I didn’t get to finish out my four years dancing for Endicott, I still love the program and I will support it the rest of the time I’m here.”

She is the latest Gulls Dancer to hit the big time. Returning Patriots Cheerleader Karen Link also danced at Endicott two years ago.

“Karen actually helped me a lot through the audition process,” Manelas said. “When we got to finals at boot camp I actually got to audition with her, which was funny. I got to know her when she’d come by to visit the team and was a huge help. It’s cool that she came from the same school.”

Link’s college roommate, Cara Desjarlais, is also a member of Boston Celtics Dancers. Manelas is thrilled to be continuing the program’s rich tradition.

“Endicott has a great dance program here,” Manelas said. “They’re a very competitive team, it’s not just a hobby or just for fun, it’s really a sport. It teaches you discipline and time management. If I hadn’t had that before jumping right into something as involved as the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Making the move

Auditioning for the Patriots Cheerleaders was a grueling month-long process for the aspiring dancer. She initially had to learn a few short routines, before the first wave of cuts.

“There were a lot of girls,” Manelas recalled. “Everyone is beautiful, and everyone is there for the same reason, to earn a spot on the team. It can be intimidating, but I kept my eye on the prize.”

Over the next few weeks, the cheerleaders were put through the paces. They learned several new routines, before having an interview session with New England Patriots Cheerleading Coach Tracy Sormanti, as well going through a swimsuit competition.

“As a dancer that wasn’t necessarily in my comfort zone, but it went well,” said Manelas, who was also tested with a round of football trivia, before performing two full routines with another cheerleader followed by a solo spot.

After surviving another round of cuts, Manelas embarked on cheerleader boot camp, which marked the final round of the audition process.

“That was when the personal trainer come in, and it is hardcore workouts,” Manelas said. “I think we learned five new dance routines at boot camp. Then it was knocked down to 40 girls.”

“By this time, you make friends with all the others girls, and now you really, really want to make the team because you’ve already built relationships,” she added. “That (process can be) pretty brutal, just because you’ve made it for so long.”

Manelas and the rest of the finalist found out if they made the team via a posting on the team’s website at the end of March.

“I didn’t eve want to look,” she admitted. “You put your heart and soul into it for a month and spend your whole life training, it was really nerve-wracking. I was very anxious, but the feeling is like no other when you see your name on that list. It’s the beginning of a whole new journey.”

As she gears up for Sunday’s tilt against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sept. 27 (1 p.m. kickoff), the rookie feels this may be the start of something big.

“I’m just ready for a super exiting season with the Patriots,” Manelas said. “Tom Brady is back, so I think it’s going to be awesome and maybe even lead to a fifth (Super Bowl) ring.”

And the Pats can count on Manelas to be cheering them on every step of the way.

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