Monday, May 14, 2007

Portager Catches Lightning in a Bottle 

Posted by James at 12:54 PM ET

By Joey Payeur
The Daily Graphic
With the formidable task of shaping an almost entirely new squad, Dena Clark decided the shape of things had to change.

It’s a philosophical adjustment which worked significantly in Melayna McLean’s favour.

“Because I was losing so many from last year’s team, I had my work cut out for me to find women who could do both dan-cing and stunting,” said Clark, head coach for Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Blue Lightning dance team, who had most of her 2006 team hang up their pom-poms following last season.

“I needed 16 dancers and 16 stunters for game day. When I went about looking for members to make up the team, I was looking for much more specific things. You can’t have all stunters or all fliers.”

Enter McLean, who stood out from the crowd of approximately 70 hopefuls at the two-week tryout at the end of March in Winnipeg to become only the second Portage la Prairie product in Blue Lightning history to make the team. Leigh-Ann Cameron was the first in 2004, although Cameron left the team before the season concluded due to other commitments.

“It was so intense,” said McLean, 18, a 2006 Portage Col-legiate Institute graduate who coaches PCI’s cheerleading team this year. “They had some big guy come in and drill you like in (army) boot camp.

“I didn’t expect to work that hard, and I never want to do it again,” she laughed.
For all her sweat, pain and effort, McLean showed Clark below-average physical stature doesn’t mean below-average skills when it came to doing stunts or providing the foundation for those doing stunts.

“Melayna’s such a tiny little thing,” said Clark. “It amazed me that she was such a solid base. And a lot of the women competing against her complimented her on her outgoing personality, smile and willingness to learn.”

McLean will now get to perform in front of audiences of as many as 30,000 people for Bombers’ home games at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg.

“The first practice I walked onto the field and looked up and saw how huge it was,” recalled McLean. “I got a little nervous, but I’m excited to see what’s it going to be all about.”

Winnipeg Blue Lightning
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Blue Lightning coach Dena Clark (left) with Melayna McLean.

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