Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Patriot cheerleaders head overseas 

Posted by Sasha at 12:55 PM ET

By: Terry Nau
The Pawtucket Times

Working for the New England Patriots' cheerleading squad has opened up a whole new world for two local women.

Lincoln's Briana Lee and Woonsocket's Alysha Castonguay will be boarding a flight out of Logan Airport today for an overseas trip that will take them to U.S. military bases in Europe and perhaps the Middle East.

"I've made this trip before," Lee, in her third year with the Patriots' cheerleaders, admitted on Friday. "They can't tell us specifically where we are going but on my last trip, we went to Turkey, German, Iraq, Japan and South Korea. Iraq was a real eye-opener. It was so heartwarming to see the soldiers."

Castonguay, a Patriots rookie, can't wait for her first trip overseas.

"I'm so excited," she said. "Briana has told me about her trip. It's going to be fantastic."
The two women share a common love for cheerleading and dance, two prime components of the job, along with excellent conditioning and athleticism.

"My mother (Dawn) got me started," Castonguay said. "She was a professional rollerskater when she was my age and traveled as far as Texas. She was around two months pregnant with me when she stopped skating. Mom put me into dance classes when I was three years old and I did that until I was 13. But when I was 11, I became a cheerleader. I stopped dancing two years later and concentrated on cheerleading for the Woonsocket Redskins and Woonsocket High."
Lee, 20, became a cheerleader when she was six years old.

"I just have always loved the sport," she said. "I danced as well. The majority of the Patriots cheerleaders have dance backgrounds. I tried out for the Patriots when I was still in high school. When I made the team, my friends and family were so excited for me. It has been an amazing experience over the past three years."

Castonguay, also 20, tried out this year and made the team.

"I was a freshman cheerleader in college at the University of Rhode Island," she said. "When I made the Patriots, I was so excited I can't even explain to you what it felt like. I went from being a high school cheerleader to a professional. To be associated with a winning organization like the Patriots has been a great experience. I was only 19 years old when I made the team and I was still a little crazy, all over the place, and suddenly I had to learn how to be on time for things, to have some discipline in my life. I feel like I am a professional, that I put on my suit and go out there to do my job."

Lee enjoys stepping out on the field and performing in front of 70,000 fans.

"We have the best seat in the house," she said. "Right on the field. But it's a lot of work. On game days, we arrive five hours early and practice right up until game time. Sundays are a long day but we love it."

Patriots cheerleaders also are called upon to make appearances through New England, promoting charitable causes, opening stores, even appearing at Bar Mitzvahs.

"We might appear in Rhode Island one day and Maine the next," Castonguay said.
Castonguay has taken a break from college to focus on cheerleading. She works at a tanning salon during her spare time.

"I just didn't know what it would be like, juggling cheerleading and college and a job," she said. "I'll go back to school eventually."

The Patriots will do without their services until the two local women return home on December 2. Needless to say, Lee and Castonguay wouldn't trade this traveling experience for anything.

"There are so many opportunities open to us as Patriots cheerleaders," Lee said. "Having the chance to cheer up our troops during the holiday season is very important to all of us."

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