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Kent, Auburn Sea Gals Super Bowl bound
The emotions of 33 women with a close-up view of the Seattle Seahawks couldn't help but explode when they saw the play that saved the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"That last play when Richard Sherman tipped the ball, that was the moment when all of the Sea Gals looked at each other and starting tearing and crying, and we were like 'this is happening, we're going to the Super Bowl,'" says Jacqueline, a 2012 Kentridge High School graduate and one of 33 members of the Seahawks NFL cheerleading squad.
"I looked in the eyes of our fans and saw their faces all lit up and that just set my heart on fire," says Geraldine, a 2007 Kentwood graduate about the tip heard around the world.
The Sea Gals, including four women who graduated from Kentridge, Kentwood or Auburn Riverside high schools, flew out Thursday to New York. They will make several promotional appearances before they perform on the sideline Sunday of Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey between the Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.
The Sea Gals are only known in public by their first names for security reasons. But sit down for a short conversation with the cheerleaders and the outgoing personalities makes it easy to know them on a first-name basis.
"Being from Kent it means a lot to me that I get to represent the city of Kent at the Super Bowl," says Geraldine, in her third year on the team. "A small town girl makes it out to the biggest stage in the world."
As many as 300 women try out each year for the Sea Gals. A spot on the current squad doesn't guarantee another season as everyone must audition each year in the spring.
All have dance backgrounds. Some are college students as well as work part-time jobs. Others work full-time jobs. They practice two evenings a week at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, the training facility for the Seahawks. The Sea Gals perform at every home game at CenturyLink Field and do a variety of promotional appearances.
Zoe, an Auburn Riverside graduate and a Portland State University student, is one of a dozen rookies on the team. She commutes from Oregon for practices and games. She says it's worth the drive.
"I've transformed as a dancer and a person," Zoe says. "It teaches you more than dance. It teaches you how to model, how to pose, how to speak well and how to represent a community. It makes you a well-rounded super woman."
Laura, a 2006 Kentridge graduate and 2010 Washington State University graduate, returns as a veteran Sea Gal.
"It's my fourth season so I've kind of watched as (coach) Pete Carroll has come in and made this what it is," Laura says. "I'm just so happy to be a small part of this organization."
The Sea Gals aren't allowed to talk about how much they get paid, but they are paid. Each also receives two season tickets to give to family or friends. They aren't allowed to fraternize with players.
Thrill of a lifetime
But there's no doubt these women are having the time of their lives.
"Nothing beats the type of thrill and adrenaline you get on game day especially getting the chance to do it with some of the most amazing women I've ever met," Jacqueline says. "My teammates are very beautiful, very intelligent and kind. We've become really close friends so on game days I look at my teammates and it makes the experience that much more exciting because I experience it with them."
They make their family and friends proud as well.
"I talked to my grandma and she started crying and she's not an emotional person," Zoe says about reaction of relatives to her Super Bowl trip. "For her to be, 'I'm so proud of you,' just felt really good."
In addition to beauty and dance skills, it takes a certain kind of woman to make the Sea Gals.
"Everyone's very humble, has a good sense of humor yet works very, very hard," Laura says. "We all have that in common."
They also know which team will win.
"We're going to win for sure," Jacqueline says. "I have a very good feeling about this game and this team. It's kind of been a very magical season. A lot of great things have happened. I feel it's finally our year to bring home that Lombardi trophy."