Sunday, February 17, 2008

Plenty to Cheer 

Posted by James at 11:53 AM ET

By Garry Rayno
New Hampshire Union Leader
A Manchester West High School graduate, University of New Hampshire senior and New England Patriots Cheerleader appears in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue on newsstands now.

Meghan White, 21, of Bedford learned she would be representing the Patriots in the magazine's celebrated harbinger of spring while flying home from the Patriots cheerleaders' swimsuit calendar photo shoot in the Dominican Republic in late April and early May.

In June, White was off to New York City for a 10-hour photo session wearing a red, white and blue bikini -- the Patriots' colors -- while waving like-colored pompoms.

This week, White was in New York City for the unveiling of the swimsuit issue with other models who appear on the glossy pages.

"It was a pretty surreal experience, surrounded by all the talented and beautiful models who appeared in it," she said.

The models walked the red carpet and did media interviews. The 12 Cheerleaders from National Football League teams who appear in the issue were introduced one by one, she said.

Meghan White

White grew up in Bedford, where her parents, Joe and Anne White, have lived for more than 20 years.

"We're very proud of her," her mother said.

White became interested in dance at an early age and began taking lessons from Karen Pariseau at the Bedford Dance Center, where she studied for 10 years.

"She gave me all my training. I have her to thank for my talent and everything she taught me," White said in a phone interview yesterday.

Now White balances being a full-time college student with a part-time job working for the New England Patriots.

"We are part-time employees who work year-round. We do promotional appearances all around New England. It never really stops," she said.

White travels from Durham to Foxborough twice a week for practice and on Sundays when there are home games. The Cheerleaders practice even when the season is over.

"It's quite the balancing act," she said. "I live out of my planner and out of my car. It's a lot of commuting and a huge time commitment. I've learned to prioritize everything. You have to learn how to balance more than just one thing sometime. A lot of the girls on my team have full-time jobs."

After White graduated from West High School in 2004, she went to UNH and joined the dance company during her freshman and sophomore years. After her sophomore year, White said, she wanted to try something new.

"I found out about the Patriots' open audition -- I knew a couple of the girls who were cheerleaders -- with around 300 girls, but I made the final cut, and I've been on the team for two years," White said.

White traveled to China last summer with seven of her teammates to increase awareness and interest in American football.

"We got to experience the culture and talk to their media, which is the only way to introduce a new sport in that country because (the Chinese people) don't know anything about American football," she said.

For two weeks at Thanksgiving time, White and several of her teammates went on a tour of military bases in Turkey, Iraq, England and Germany.

"We performed for the troops to help morale and lift their spirits during the holiday season," she said.

The Patriots' and their fans' spirits could use a little uplift after the team's heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants, ending what until then had been a perfect season.

White was at the Super Bowl in Arizona with the other 23 Patriots Cheerleaders.

"Unfortunately, it was not how we wanted to end the season, but it was an unbelievable experience to be part of," she said.

White will audition again for the Patriots' cheering and dance squad next month and graduate from UNH in May with a degree in communications and a minor in English.

Down the road, she hopes for a career in broadcast journalism.

"I'm very interested in the news media, more specifically television. I hope to get into the field," she said.

Meghan at Si.com.

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