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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Union City cheerleader has Warriors on mind 

Posted by Sasha at 1:23 PM ET

Newark candidate hopes her dreams also will come true
By Todd R. Brown, Staff Writer
08/01/2007

If Taliah Mekki has anything to say about it, the Golden State Warriors will go even further next season than last, when the team made the NBA playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

"I'm (going to) cheer my hardest, dance my hardest," the 25-year-old Union City resident said.

Mekki learned last week that she will be one of the basketball team's cheerleaders for the upcoming season, although only 14 members have been named so far.

The final two slots are up for grabs on the Warriors' Web site, with Newark native Karlee Joice competing with four other women to rah-rah the team to victory.

"It's been pretty nerve-racking," the 18-year-old said by phone from Lake Shasta. "It was nice to be on vacation this week and not home stressing."

The resurgent team decided to ask the public to help choose who will shimmy and shake at home games in Oakland to use new technology to reach out to fans, spokesman Michael Ravina said. The winners will be revealed Friday morning.

"Either way, I'm going to continue dancing," Joice said. "I know that my time will come."

The 2006 Newark Memorial High School grad started dancing at age 2, inspired by her older sister, Tracee, now a student at De Anza College in Cupertino.

Although she was a Spy Girl cheerleader last year for the San Jose Stealth lacrosse team, Joice said her father is a big basketball fan and is keen to cheer on his cheerleader daughter at the Coliseum. Her grandparents, meanwhile, have been rallying friends to cast votes for her.

"Contact one, and they'll contact three for you," grandpa Dave Pusateri said. "Grows like a Christmas tree."

Coincidentally, the semiretired San Jose resident said he manufactures trophies.

"I've made a lot of'em for her," he said of his granddaughter. "She's won her share."

When not dropping it like it's hot, Joice takes classes at Ohlone College and plans to earn credentials in order to teach high school.

"I love being a role model for kids," she said, noting that her family has raised more than $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "It would be really great to give back to the community I've been in my whole life."

Mekki was born in Daly City and grew up in San Leandro. She counts two pro sports teams on her dance resume thanks to a stint last year with the 49ers' cheerleaders, the Gold Rush.

Of the Warrior Girls tryouts, she said: "It was probably one of the tougher auditions I've ever experienced. This one was more fast-paced and had a lot more cuts."

The group fitness coordinator for Crunch Fitness auditioned with nearly 200 women July 21 in San Ramon and got the NBA job on the spot Thursday.

She started cheering at age 9 for Pop Warner youth football in San Leandro, thanks to an older friend who also was involved.

"She made me try out," Mekki chuckled.

While she has locked up a spot on the Warrior Girls squad, she lauded the online voting gimmick as a good way to drum up enthusiasm for the next season.

"It's great for the fans to be able to have a hand in the last two girls that are going to be on the team," she said.

The San Francisco State University alum has a degree in kinesiology and plans to enter a three-year physical therapy doctorate program in the fall.

"I have a lot going on right now; I don't think I can add anything else in," she said.

So, will she rake in the dough like the superstar players she'll be cheering?

"You do it more for the love of doing it," she laughed. "It doesn't pay your bills."

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