Former Pro Brings New Spirit to Cheer Squad

By Matthew Desousa
The Minaret

On a hot, end-of-summer Saturday afternoon, Hope Donnelly, the new Head Cheerleading Coach for The University of Tampa, completed the third and final day of tryouts with candidates in a chilly Cass Gymnasium.
Pleased with the strong turnout of almost 50 candidates for an approximately 18 member squad, Coach Donnelly was impressed with the core skill levels present in the candidates.

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Hope cheered for the Buccaneers the year they won the Super Bowl.


Many had been all-star cheerleaders, with a diverse background in dance, from high school and other colleges. Others brought technically advanced skills from gymnastics.
Also having to compete for the limited roster positions were 11 returning veterans.

Although no minimum requirements existed for entrance to the tryouts, each of the three mandatory days became progressively advanced for student evaluations.
Performances in basic spirit displays and entertainment of chants and jumping began each day, with additional tests of tumbling and stunting introduced in the second and third days.
No matter what skills an individual begins the squad with, Donnelly noted that a set goal for each member would be to perform a standing backhand spring.
“They’ve all worked really hard and showed their commitment to the team, so we’re really going to have a great group,” said Donnelly of the candidates she has evaluated.
At the time of the interview 36 students were remaining in contention, with the final team roster to be determined by Sept. 21.
Donnelly is the only UT staff member instructing the team, but has the aid of three student leaders on the team.
Two are returning veterans and the third to be determined at a later time.

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Swimsuit Photo from the Tampa Bay Lightning

After a respectable professional background in performance, Donnelly returns to collegiate cheerleading in her first season as a coach.
A dancer since the age of three, the Panama City Beach native started organized cheerleading at seven and continued throughout high school and college.
As a co-captain of the Eckerd College cheerleading team, a fellow member of UT’s conference, she went semi-professional in her last year in attendance and performed as a captain of the Tampa Bay Storm’s cheering squad.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and visual art, she expanded her professional career with seasons cheering for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Orlando Magic and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With the Lightning, she achieved the position of Entertainment Manager for the St. Petersburg Times Forum and spent the past four years improving the fan experience. Some of which are noted in her UT Athletics web site profile.

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Hope with the Orlando Magic Dancers

Gil Swalls, UT’s Associate Athletic Director, said that Donnelly possesses “an excellent combination of previous cheerleading experience, both in our [Sunshine State] conference and as a professional; she had the best experience for our needs.”
For her future plans Donnelly said, “fans at games are going to notice an increased level of interaction and the entertainment value the team brings.”
She also expressed an interest in possibly having the team formally compete in the upcoming spring season of cheering events.

Army Reserve Children Surprised by Orlando Magic Dancers During Workshop

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Mark Bell
81st Regional Support Command
DVIDShub.net
08.13.2009

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nails, hair and boys.

It seemed like typical girl talk for nearly a dozen teenagers attending a weekend workshop with their parents during an Army Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program held Aug. 7- 9 here.

But like most events sponsored by the 81st Regional Support Command, nothing ever seems typical, and this weekend was no exception.

More than 75 sons and daughters of Soldiers who recently returned from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were signed up for the child care program designed to entertain the Army Reserve youth as their parents were busy learning how to reintegrate back into their families and communities after a deployment overseas.

For one young girl, the workshop agenda was a surprise to her and her friends.

“I thought I was just coming here for a meeting,” said 11-year-old Samantha Smith, from Lake City, Fla. “I never knew this was going to be so much fun for an Army meeting.”

As Smith and her friend, Brittany Hobby, performed sporadic cheerleading routines in the hallways and spoke coded conservations only young girls could grasp, one could only assume a daytime slumber party was the logical answer.

meganclementiusa2010_smInstead, it was the appearance of three Orlando Magic Dancers, one of whom was newly crowned Miss Florida USA, that made teenage boys blush and girls shake with excitement during their unannounced visit.

As the older boys were gathered around an air hockey table battling to be the best of a white plastic puck, the arrival of Erin Gomersall and Kelly Rose Resciniti in their Orlando Magic dance uniforms ended any hopes of concentration.

The sound of a puck bouncing off the rails and slowly coming to a halt and the faint hum of air rushing through the hockey table was a sure sign the five youth were definitely caught off guard.

“So who’s winning here,” asked Megan Clementi, the current Miss Florida USA and captain of the Magic Dancers. “Come on; let’s see who’s going to win.”

The game abruptly ended and their focus shifted to the newest air hockey fans.

Like a deer staring into the headlights of oncoming traffic, the visible disbelief took several minutes to disappear as the dancers attempted to make new friends from a younger generation.

One older boy quickly turned around and ran his fingers through his hair and straightened up his shirt before turning back around with a large grin. Behind the dancers, several other boys could be seen texting on their cell phones – admitting later they were bragging to their friends back home about their new girlfriends.

“I was surprised they spent their time to come see us here,” said 11-year old Hobby, who aspires to someday be a University of Florida cheerleader. “I really liked them a lot. They were very spiritual and sweet. It makes me want to be a cheerleader even more.”

Within minutes, word spread throughout the hallway and other rooms that the dancers were there to see the younger participants of the post-deployment workshop.

Leaning up against a sliding door, several girls focused through the glass using their hands to get a glimpse of National Basketball Association professional dancers. As the door opened, the boys were quickly pushed aside and the mob-like atmosphere brought huge smiles to the energetic dancers.

“Wow, are you really a cheerleader,” asked one six-year-old girl.

“Close, but we are the Orlando Magic Dancers, not cheerleaders,” Gomersall said smiling as she gave the girl a hug.
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“I can’t believe this,” another girl said over and over. “I have to go tell my mom and dad. Can I go get my mom? She won’t ever believe me.”

The boys slowly returned to their air hockey game as the dancers and the newest fans of the Orlando Magic slowly made their way to the hallway.

Gomersall, a four-year veteran of the Magic Dancers, said taking time on a Saturday morning to visit with Soldiers and families is an honor as a member of the community and an Orlando Magic Dancer.

“I think it’s important to connect with the military because they do so much for us whether we are at war or not,” she said. “We just want to continue our support for the military family. They deserve it, and sometimes I don’t even think they even realize how important they are in our communities.”

Answering a barrage of questions ranging from caring for their nails to being a professional dancer, the girls and the dancers fell into a noticeable routine like they were reunited friends.

As the girls asked permission to touch Clementi’s pageant sash, the noticeable wide-eye reaction meant a little more to Clementi than the average appearance, and said she hopes the boys and girls had fun and were able to take away a little more than just a visit from professional basketball dancers.

“I don’t think they get to see NBA dancers or Miss Florida USA,” she said. “I hope they remember us as being positive role models and just really nice girls. One day, they can be a Magic Dancer or be Miss Florida USA.”

As two girls were showing off their latest cheerleading routines, others were shaking the bluish metallic pom pons.

A young girl ran her fingers through Resciniti’s hair as she turned to her friend and giggled like she just had a brush with a movie star.

Resciniti, a veteran of Armed Forces Entertainment overseas tours, said she never forgets about the Soldiers and families that sacrifice so much during deployments while on and off the NBA court.

“Although we are over here entertaining and in the spotlight, we know what’s going on over there too, and we are very thankful and appreciative of what the troops and their families go through during this difficult time,” she said.

As Soldiers and families are separated for long periods of time during scheduled deployments, Resciniti said it’s just as important to take care of family members left behind.

“The girls here today are doing the same things we did while growing up,” she said. “They are trying to be regular girls doing things like dancing and getting involved in sports, and they did it without their dad or mother here. I can’t imagine how tough it could be during that time.”

With the last of the promotional Orlando Magic Dancer posters signed, Clementi, Gomersall and Resciniti quietly left the area to visit more heroes of the day– the Soldiers and spouses of the children.

As Hobby and Smith unsuccessfully begged to keep the three dancers around for a few more minutes, Gomersall reassured the girls that they would be visiting another Yellow Ribbon workshop in the near future.

“We have to come back again,” Smith told Hobby. “This is just too cool. Our friends are never going to believe us.”

After it was all done, Smith said making new friends was the best thing about the whole event – minus the early Saturday morning surprise. “Hopefully I will see them again and make more friends the next time,” she said.

As the new friends departed, Clementi said the 90-minute meeting was absolutely amazing and hopes the children truly understand how much Americans respect and honor their parents.

“Soldiers are overseas every single day fighting for our country,” she said. “I don’t think they really know how much we appreciate them.”

Clementi said they wanted to come here to just say thank you as ambassadors of the Orlando Magic organization and the state of Florida.

“It’s something little, but I think it makes a big difference,” she said.

Magic Dancer Auditions Just Around the Corner

Hellooooo Orlando Girls!

I know you’ve been sitting around, watching all these other auditions go by, thinking “Gee, when is it going to be my turn?”

It’s now.
Your turn is RIGHT NOW.

Auditions for the 2009-10 Orlando Magic Dancers are scheduled for Saturday, August 15th. That gives you two weeks to take a few dance classes, get your outfit together, and do about a million crunches. In addition, the team is offering audition prep classes on August 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13. They’ll tell you everything you need to know to feel confident going into auditions. (Or, as confident as a person can feel when auditioning alongside a couple hundred other women.)

Click here to find everything you need to know on OrlandoMagic.com.

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I don’t think I need to impress upon you what a fantastic opportunity this is. The Magic Dancers dance, of course. But wait – that’s not all. They dunk! They boogie with their daddies! And last year – they went to the NBA finals. (Perhaps you heard?)

And although my favorite Magic Dancer, the supremely cool and talented Miss. Megan Clementi, has retired (moment of silence, please…), the silver lining is that leaves one more pair of empty go-go boots on the squad.

Just think – at next year’s playoffs, YOU could be the one dangling precariously from the ceiling in pointy-toed boots! Personally, I would pay money for that experience.

Megan Clementi: A True All-American Gal

By Madeline Marr
The Miami Herald

meganmagic2Megan Clementi has done it — clinched the title of Miss Florida USA 2010.

The Kendall native, 25, is still in shock.

“I think I’m still having problems understanding the significance of it all,” says the electrical engineering graduate of the University of Central Florida.

It is a significant achievement — Clementi now qualifies for the Miss USA competition. If she wins the April contest (at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas) she’ll make history. A Florida woman has never won Miss USA (well, once, by default, in 1967).

The former dancer with the Orlando Magic — whose platform is helping kids — was pretty confident when we chatted with her from her home in Orlando a few days after her weekend victory.

Though Clementi sounded tired — with reason — she was also in the middle of moving all her belongings to a pad in downtown Miami (a promise she made to herself if she won).

What do you think made you stand out?

“Thanks to my parents’ great genes, I’ve always had a lean body, but my physical trainer gave me the curves. I rocked the swimwear!”

Did you get stumped by any questions?

“There was no curveball, I was so prepared, but one question threw me off — `What is the biggest issue facing teens?’ Teen suicide immediately came to mind with all the Internet cyberbullying. Everyone was impressed.”

What do you think your chances are of becoming Miss USA?

“I have goals and am ready to put them into action. There’s a big difference between me and the girls who are doing it for the fun. I’m very focused.”

What is your next step?

“There are a lot of next steps. I want to do a lot of appearances and tour the state. Due to what’s been seen on TV lately, pageantry has gotten a bad connotation. I want to turn that around.”

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[Gallery of Megan at OrlandoSentinel.com]

Orlando Magic Dancer Crowned Miss Florida USA 2010

Orlando Magic Dancer Captain Megan Clementi, who entered the pageant as Miss Volusia County USA, beat out 49 other contestants to take the crown Saturday evening.

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No stranger to Central Florida, Megan was a former Miss University of Central Florida, crowned in 2006. She was the first runner-up for Miss Florida that same year.

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A five-year veteran of the Magic’s dance team, Megan was on the sidelines as the Blue and White made their run to the NBA Finals.

As Miss Florida USA, Megan will go on to compete in the Miss USA 2010 pageant, with a chance to compete for Miss Universe from there.

Friday Round Up

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Former Eagles Cheerleader Maria (seen here with her friend Derek) has landed a job dancing for Celebrity Cruises. She starts next month. Her ship will be traveling the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

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The San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush have completely redesigned their website with tons of new photos and video. Check it out here.

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Former Eagles Cheerleader Alaina (left, seen here with former Eagles Cheerleader Kristie) is due to give birth on September 2nd. Congrats, Alaina!

brittanypanthersMiami Dolphins Cheerleader and Florida Panthers Ice Dancer Brittany Freeman is Miss Miami Gardens and competes in the Miss Florida USA pageant this weekend.

New (at least to us) on Twitter:

Milwaukee Bucks Energee!

Atlanta Hawks A-Town Dancers

Phoenix Suns Dancers

Orlando Magic Dancers

Houston Rockets Power Dancers

Video:

Preview of the new AVP Dancers