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Two Jacksonville Natives to Head to Super Bowl 50 with the Panthers TopCats Dance Team

By Jacqueline Matter

Two Jacksonville natives are headed to the Super Bowl, but they’ll be cheering on the Panthers from the sidelines.
WNCT’s Jacqueline Matter spoke to their mothers on the exciting journey.

Friends since elementary school, Aliscia Taplin and Annalise Coleman are both first-year dancers for the Carolina Panthers Cheerleading Team, the TopCats.

While the girls didn’t always desire to be NFL cheerleaders, they both had a gift from a very young age.

“When I saw her amongst the other 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds, her hands were straight out, her legs were high, and I thought wow she’s a natural,” said Valerie Taplin of her daughter Aliscia.

“Annalise started dancing since she was about four years old, her preschool teacher told me she was gifted in rhythm,” said Vanessa Coleman, Annalise’s mother.

The goal of being a TopCat has been a passion of Annalise’s for years.

“She decided when she was 17, we went to the Panther’s game, and she said mom I’m going to dance with the cheerleaders, and she watched them the whole time and so when she turned 21 she tried out.”

But making the team wasn’t easy. Annalise and Aliscia competed among 160 other girls vying for a spot on the TopCats squad.

“Every day for about a month, ‘mom I’m still in, I’m still in’, so it was really a nerve-wrecking thing for us,” said Vanessa Coleman.

“She’d call me and tell me ‘oh I think I did okay, I think I did alright’ which was good to hear but I said don’t get excited don’t get nervous for her just let everything be calm,” said Valerie Taplin.

After countless hours of training and chasing a lifelong dream, the dancing duo made the 28 member squad.

Now, both girls will soon have a Super Bowl experience.

“To dance, just to dance and dance for the Panthers, but God’s plan was you can dance for the Panthers but you’re going to the Super Bowl with that,” said Valerie Taplin about their excitement.

Each year the girls must re-try out for the TopCats dance squad, but both girls say they have every intention of returning to the sidelines next year to cheer on the Panthers.

While the Panthers have already landed in Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50, the TopCats Cheerleaders will be headed to California on Friday.

Special Olympics Brevard Cheerleaders Needed

By Jennifer Sangalang
Florida Today

There’s a cheerleading group in town — and they need a little L-O-V-E.

The Special Olympics Brevard cheerleading team seeks members, volunteer coaches and community support. So says Joanna Kiel, head cheerleading coach.

The 28-year-old former Baltimore Ravens cheerleader coached a Special Olympics cheerleading team in Maryland. One of her favorite cheerleaders was her youngest sister and biggest fan, 23-year-old Lexi Tippett, who has Down syndrome.


“With my experience with Special Olympics, performing is their favorite thing to do,” she said. “They love practice, but when the team can get out at a huge venue, they are beyond excited. It makes them feel included. Just like they’ve watched their family members perform — now it’s their turn.”

Sign-ups begin Feb. 2 at the Special Olympics Brevard office in Rockledge. For the 2015 season, there were eight girls on the team. Currently, there’s almost 20, and many more are welcome. Kiel’s Maryland team had more than 60 cheerleaders.

“Special Olympics Brevard has many, many sports that I don’t think people are aware of,” Kiel said. In addition to growing the cheer program, though, she hopes the team will make it to the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando for the state championships in the fall.

“We condition, we train, we learn new skills,” she added. “We’re working with the local high schools so that our cheerleading team can perform at some of their games.”


Boys and girls are needed for the Special Olympics cheerleading team — any age, any skill level, any ability.

“As far as Special Olympics go, it’s any person in the special needs community,” Kiel said. “We’re not afraid of any severe disabilities. Anybody that wants to be a part of it can be a part of it.”

Ways to help

• Transportation: Travel could be an issue for someone with special needs. “If we were able to help get the funds to help transport (children with special needs to) the competition, that would be amazing,” Kiel said.

• Donations: Funds raised will go toward cheerleading uniforms, hair bows and tennis shoes.

• Volunteers: With Special Olympics, usually four or six coaches are needed per team — a cheer and dance background isn’t required. Also, students who need service hours could volunteer.

Thanks to her NFL cheerleading days, Kiel knows all about the adrenaline that comes with performing for large crowds. But nothing beats the experience of seeing her sister, Lexi, put on a cheerleading outfit and perform.

“At the end it’s just pure waterworks,” she said. “When it’s over, you’re unbelievably proud.”

The first full practice for the Special Olympics Brevard cheerleading team is set for Feb. 16 at Freedom Athletics in Rockledge.

Cheerleader Profile: Ladies of Ontario Fury Dancer Brittany

Meet Brittany, third year member of the Ladies of Ontario Fury.


Why did you become a professional cheerleader?

I’ve cheered and danced all my life so once it was time to make the transition from an adolescent all-star team, to the professional world, I was very excited and honored to be a part of such a great team in a very elite field!  Being a professional dancer is one of my greatest accomplishments and deepest passions!

What was your favorite experience as a professional cheerleader?

There’s no other adrenaline rush that can beat running onto the field with all of the fans cheering for you as you line up for the music to start, I love that of course!  But, I really enjoy our post game autograph sessions where I get to meet with our fans and connect on a personal level!

What is your favorite dance style?

I am the most trained and technically best at ballet, but I enjoy hip hop the most and it’s the most common in my industry!

What are the three words that describe you?

Passionate- I am consumed in doing the things I love with the utmost passion.
Dedicated- I am 100% committed and involved in everything I do to the end.
Playful- I am a girly girl and a tom boy all wrapped into one. I’m goofy and love adventure!

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I was painfully shy growing up and I was bullied.  Only because of pageants was I able to overcome these obstacles, helping me develop into an outgoing, brave woman today who is proud to be your Miss California United States 2015-2016!

What is your guilty pleasure?

I LOVE frozen yogurt, you can call me a yogurt snob! 😉  I know the best spots and I have a rewards card at all of them.

What is the one thing you can’t live without?

I can’t live without WAZE!  With my very hectic lifestyle in LA, I rely on Waze to help me navigate my life on a timely schedule.

What is your motto to live by?

“She is clothed with dignity and strength, and laughs without fear of the future.”  Proverbs 31:25  I am a strong woman with integrity and have faith in God to take care of my life.

What advice would you tell someone who aspires to become a professional cheerleader?

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.  It may not happen your first try, but a passionate person never gives up for what they truly want.  Stay in dance class and become knowledgeable in the industry.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years I see myself living in Malibu, married with 2-3 children.  I hope to have starred in a few major motion picture films and owning my own pageant system!


You can see Brittany and the rest of the Ladies of Ontario Fury at their next home game on February 13th at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.  For more information about the Ontario Fury, please visit their website here.

[Ladies of Ontario Fury]
[Ladies of Ontario Fury Facebook Page]

Cheerleader Profile: Ladies of Ontario Fury Dancer Erika

Let’s get to know Erika, a third year member of the Ladies of Ontario Fury.


Why did you become a professional cheerleader?

I was given the opportunity to start cheering/dancing at the age of 9, and ever since then I have been fully captivated by the sport!  Inspired by a former Clippers Spirit Dancer, it was my dream to perform in front of thousands of people someday & that someday finally is here!

What was your favorite experience as a professional cheerleader?

My favorite experience as a professional cheerleader was being selected to perform on a live television show in India called, “Extraaa Innings” for the Indian Premier Cricket League.  It was incredible to be able to take my profession overseas and to perform in front of millions of viewers!

What is your favorite dance style?

I have many different dance styles, but it’s a close tie between hip hop and bachata.

What is your favorite dance move? What is your go to dance move?

When in doubt, Pop Lock & Drop it!  The drop split is my go to dance move, and really gets the crowd pumped!

What are the three words that describe you?

Inspirational, Innovative, Adventurous

What is your favorite music genre? Who is your favorite musical artist?

Anything I can dance to is my favorite kind of music!  Lately I have been listening to a lot of Bollywood & Bachata music.  My favorite music artist is Jennifer Lopez, she is incredible!

What is your guilty pleasure?

Sweeeeeeeeeeeets! Cookies & Milk are my ultimate guilty pleasure snack.

Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Or some other app.

I’m a very active instagram user, although I don’t like to be on my phone all the time.  My favorite app has to be shazam because when I listen to a new song & want to save it to my phone I immediately press the button and SHAZAM the song is saved!  It’s also great to see what kind of music is trending in other countries around the world!

Who is the one person that inspires you the most?

The one person who truly inspires me is my mother.  My mom is hard working, determined and lets no one bring her down.  I often catch myself doing things my mom would do and I am proud to say I am my mothers daughter.

What advice would you tell someone who aspires to become a professional cheerleader?

Keep focused.  Especially when it comes down to audition day, go in with a positive attitude and show the judges everything you have worked for all year!  There are hundreds of other girls who want that spot on the team, so make it known that you are hungry for it.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

10 years from now I see myself starting new goals, and helping others achieve theirs!  I see my current business growing and would love to open more locations overseas in europe!  With a great support system, I would love to start a family of my own & be a supermom!  I plan on investing in a prestigious dance studio and prep future professional dancers/cheerleaders worldwide!  I want to inspire and volunteer my time by hosting students abroad into our community.  My ultimate goal is to receive the opportunity to be featured on Tedx or Forbes!


You can meet Erika and the rest of the Ladies of Ontario Fury at their next home game on February 13th at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.  For more information about the Ontario Fury, please visit their website here.

[Ladies of Ontario Fury]
[Ladies of Ontario Fury Facebook Page]

Redskins Cheerleaders at the Washington Auto Show

The Washington Redskins Cheerleaders made an appearance at the Washington Auto Show on January 27. Enjoy the photos.