“My dad looked at me like I was crazy and thought I was lying,” eighth-grader Lillie Council said. “Then he said it would be a really cool experience to go to the Alamo Bowl and have his daughter participating in it.”
Belinda Thomas, who has returned to coaching the cheer team, received the invitation to participate from the WorldStrides Heritage Performance program at the end of April. Thomas said one of her friends connected her with program representative Stephanie Baxter and the team accepted the invitation last week.
“I was excited and jumped up and down,” freshman Brittani Benham said.
The Bulldog cheerleaders will work alongside college cheerleaders to prepare for the halftime show with other cheer, dance and drill teams from across the country. They will also participate in the pep rally at the River Walk.
The girls will have the summer and fall to prepare with coach Thomas; then, once the game gets closer, they will rehearse with professional choreographers.
This fall’s team will have no seniors and just three returning cheerleaders, Benham and sophomores Symantha Flores and Kelsey Hicks along with newcomers Garcia, Tabitha Gonzales, Gabby Sandoval, Kylie Gardner and Council. Cheer coach Thomas said Flores will be the head cheerleader for the 2013-14 school-year and is doing “a great job getting everything organized for summer.”
“This is one of the few things in our area that kids can get involved in that’s a big deal, (with) national TV and that kind of thing,” Thomas said. “We’ve got such good kids here, involved in so many things. I like when they get the opportunity to do something different.”
The Alamo Bowl makes up eight of the top 20 most-watched bowl games. In 2006, it held the record for the most-watched bowl game ever with an estimated 8.83 million viewers when the Longhorns played the Iowa Hawkeyes.
“It’s a little nerve racking, but we can do it,” eighth-grader Meredith Garcia said.
Thomas said having Valero sponsoring the bowl game brought a twofold source of pride for the team, as they would be participating in support of the school and the business.
“I thought it was a great experience for the girls,” TRHS Principal Charles Odom said. “Being from a small town and being exposed to these opportunities with college cheerleaders and intermingling with other schools is a great opportunity and a life experience for them.”