Dreams sometimes come true. Just ask Buckley’s Stephanie Stennes.
A server at a popular Puyallup Valley restaurant and self-employed aerobics instructor, Stennes long held the dream of performing in front of 70,000 screaming football fans as a member of the Seattle Sea Gals. Now, that dream has become reality.
Having survived a competitive process that saw more than 300 young women vying for 28 roster spots, Stennes, who turned 21 in June, says she’s living a dream.
“Performing is just a passion of mine,” she said, explaining her longtime goal of donning a Sea Gals uniform and doing her part to fire up the already-fiery crowds that follow Seattle’s National Football League franchise.
Stennes, who honed her cheerleading skills at Cascade Christian High School in Puyallup, has called the rural Buckley area home for two years. The dream of joining the Seahawks’ official cheer squad came up several years ago and she first tried out, unsuccessfully, in 2007.
This year proved quite different.
She arrived at Qwest Stadium in April, answering an advertisement for Sea Gal tryouts.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. But she believed her background – which includes 10 years of ice skating, eight years of dance lessons and four years of high school cheerleading – made her a legitimate Sea Gal candidate.
Squad leader Sherri Thompson and a panel of judges must have agreed.
Stennes said the first step in the selection process had her joining two other hopefuls for some freestyle dancing. “They played some random music and we danced for a couple of minutes,” she said. From that brief tryout, Stennes said, the field of about 300 was chopped in half.
The remaining candidates were taught a dance routine that night and performed again the next day. The second round of dancing pared the field even more, determining a field of finalists.
“I was honored just to make it to the finals,” Stennes said.
Taught a new dance routine and given a week to perfect her moves, Stennes practiced with other Sea Gal finalists before appearing in front of the judges for an interview and final performance. The judges included local celebrities, Seahawks sponsors and even one person who won a spot on the panel at an auction.
Finally, Stennes heard her number called, meaning she had made the cut.
“It was the craziest feeling,” she said.
Soon, Stennes learned that being a Sea Gal is a demanding job. And it is a job, complete with a paycheck and, as an added benefit, a pair of season tickets.
“I had no idea how much hard work goes into this,” she said.
Since April, the Sea Gals have been meeting twice a week, “learning dance after dance after dance,” she said. There are also personal appearances on her schedule and, at each Seahawks practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex in Renton, a couple of Sea Gals are on hand to sell calendars, sign autographs and rally support for the team.
All this was geared toward the opening of the season.
Stennes and her fellow Sea Gals – a dozen rookies, 13 holdovers from last year’s squad and three veterans from prior years – were on the sidelines at 7:30 Saturday night when the Seahawks hosted Denver in their first preseason game of the season.
“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” Stennes said in the days leading up to the game, acknowledging the fact that Seattle is regarding as having the loudest fans and the loudest stadium in the NFL.
She doesn’t expect to be nervous in front of the Seahawks’ boisterous fans because, after all, practice makes perfect. The Sea Gals have been working on their routines since April she said, and are now ready to perform any of their dance moves upon hearing the first chords of a particular piece of music.
Being a Sea Gal attracts a certain personality type, she said, also keeping butterflies to a minimum.
“All of us are performers at heart,” Stennes said. “You can’t be shy when you’re dancing in front of 70,000 people.”
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