ARLINGTON -- For many, the first Saturday in May means the Kentucky Derby and the fastest two minutes in sports. To the nearly 500 women in line outside Cowboys Stadium in the unseasonably cold weather, it signaled a grueling 10 hours for the opportunity to make their dreams come true and become a member of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
The legendary Phil Whitfield opened the doors at 8 a.m. to welcome the ladies into the $1.2 billion football palace that's home to the five-time Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys as well as the location for all three rounds of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders auditions that lead up to the summer-long training camp. Once inside, the ladies got ready to look their absolute best in the 'Fluff & Puff' area before heading down to the field for the welcome address from DCC Director Kelli Finglass.
With the cameras rolling for the eighth season of CMT's Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, Finglass explained what the judges would be looking for -- from personality and enthusiasm to appearance and dance technique. The 15 judges included Finglass (in her 23rd season at the helm of the DCC), DCC choreographer Judy Trammell, Cowboys Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Official Trainer of the DCC Jay Johnson, DallasCowboys.com's Mickey Spagnola and 105.3 The Fan's Chris Arnold.
During Saturday's preliminaries, each of the ladies got 90 seconds of freestyle to impress the judges and stand out among the huge crowd that featured women from Melbourne, Fla. to Melbourne, Australia. The large number of international candidates included hopefuls form Shanghai, Japan, Guam and South Africa. Many of the ladies had experience with pro sports teams, including the NFL (Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Redskins, Patriots, Jets and Dolphins), NBA (Mavericks, Thunder, Bucks and Suns) and NHL (Stars and Bruins). Teams such as the Texas Legends Dancers, Allen Americans Ice Angels, FC Dallas Dancers, Cedar Rapids Titans and the former Dallas Desperados Dancers were also represented.
Susie Sanchez, a 39 year-old grandmother from California, had a year on the Oakland Raiders' Raiderettes squad under her belt. But like more than 300 others, Sanchez did not advance to Sunday's semifinal round. There were three sets of twins trying out, with two sets of sisters making it to Sunday, but none going on to the finals.
The semifinals began with the ladies going down onto the field to learn a routine and the signature DCC kick line from Trammell and DCC alumni Ally Traylor and Audrea Cowan. Then they performed in groups of five for the judges panel.
Following the judges' deliberations, Finglass returned and one-by-one announced who would be returning for the final round and welcomed them to join her onstage. With each passing second seeming like an eternity, the suspense continued to build for those still seated as the reality that they would not be advancing began to sink in.
"It's really hard coming back as a former Training Camp Candidate, because I know what I would be missing if I got cut," said Kathryn Dunn, Miss Fort Worth 2010, who was one of the ladies to hear her number called.
"My heart was pounding, so when Kelli actually did call my number, I was so excited and honored because it showed that they still believe in my potential as a DCC," she continued. "Now I just have to work hard and show them my best at the Final Audition round!"
When Sunday came to a close, 54 women were invited to the Final Auditions, which take place May 18th and will include a record 32 returning veteran cheerleaders from the 2012 DCC squad. Those who survive will be one step closer to performing in front of 100,000 fans at the greatest sports venue in the world.
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