Thursday, March 06, 2008

UNH student featured in new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 

Posted by Sasha at 6:26 PM ET

by Meg Power
The New Hampshire

Her Thursday schedule does not seem out of the ordinary. American Musical Theatre, then Public Speaking and finished by 3 p.m. Then she will come home around midnight. No, she's not going on a bender, she's just got practice. For the past two years, Meghan White has been balancing being a full time student and Patriots cheerleader.

White has been dancing since growing up in Bedford, N.H. She was with the UNH Dance Company for two years before she decided to "change it up." She had known girls on the Patriots cheerleading team in previous years, and decided to participate in the all-day tryout, which draws around 300 women. White called the experience "extremely intimidating."

For the past two years, White has been one of roughly three hundred chosen to be on the 22-member squad. Cheerleaders on the team have to reapply each year, and can only be on the team for a maximum of three years. While the dancing and choreography do not faze her, the cheers have been slightly more challenging.

Because of time commitment to the Patriots, White cannot be on campus most weekends. She commutes to Foxboro from her home in Bedford. From there, the drive can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. During the regular season she's on the field for every home game, making promotional appearances for away games and the twice-a-week practice.

"I miss out on a lot of weekend activities," White said. "But it's all worth it."

Being a cheerleader has allowed her some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. This past summer, White traveled with some of her teammates to China to promote the game and physical activity for kids. In November, she went with the team to visit the troops in Iraq.

"[The trip] was the most humbling experience, being able to be with the troops and to see their strength and bravery," White said.

White had to meet with her professors before the two-week trip.

"[The professors] supported me and helped me do the work," White said.

While she sometimes asks for help, White makes sure she does not ask for special treatment.

"My education is my first priority," she said. White will graduate this May with a degree in communications.

At school, White does not bring up her cheerleading because of the "preconceived notions about being a cheerleader," she said. White says one stereotype of cheerleaders is their ignorance about the game. If anyone wants to discuss football, White says she would "be willing to get into a debate with someone. I have no problem with confrontations."

Despite her demanding schedule, White has maintained not only her grades but also her commitment to her friends. Longtime friend and current roommate Alana Warren said White has not changed since joining the Patriots.

"For as long as I've known [Meghan], aside from her family and friends, dance has always been her passion," said Warren. "And she'd be the last person to ever admit how good she is at it. Being chosen out of hundreds of girls to be on the Patriots cheerleading team would get to a lot of people's heads, but Meghan really hasn't changed as a person since this all began."

Warren said White remains the same person. "[She's] a complete dork, and the funny, outgoing girl she's always been."

Now, the dork gets some bonuses "like free makeup and tickets to Pats games, both of which her roommates love," Warren joked.

Another friend, senior Sarah Newcomb, said that while White is very busy, the time they do have together is well spent.

"Meghan is very busy, but that just means that when we are together, we are making the most of our time," said Newcomb. "I feel blessed to have met such a talented and genuine person that will certainly be one of my lifelong friends."

Both agreed White manages everything because of her organization. Warren called it "borderline [obsessive compulsive disorder]." To-do lists adorn their room and White carries around a planner with every detail she needs.

"She even somehow manages to find time to make her bed every morning, and even mine if I haven't," Warren said.

White's two-year cover was blown as she was introduced as part of the first Sports Illustrated photo shoot to include NFL cheerleaders. The exciting news has brought a lot of media attention, and she's been featured in Fosters' Daily Democrat, The Boston Herald and Boston Magazine.

The 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition was just released, and was shot eight months ago. White had to keep the ten-hour photo shoot under wraps until released.

"[The people from SI] treated us like real supermodels," White said. "They made us feel like we were royalty."

White said her parents are very proud of her picture in SI. They were excited, she said, because "they knew it was done in complete taste." Her brothers, however, "don't want to talk about it."

White's boyfriend, UNH hockey player Matt Fornataro, called White's selection flattering and well deserved. A built-in advantage for Fornataro is the bragging rights. When his friends joke around with him, Fornataro said he can now "come back with 'Hey, my girlfriend's in Sports Illustrated.'"

Fornataro's quip is not anything new for road roommate Mike Radja.

"He is a great hockey player and has accomplished a lot here which one would think would give him a big head," Radja said. "But I have noticed he has a bigger head because he dates a Patriots cheerleader."

His teammates do support White though.

"I think a few guys on the team have purchased the SI that Meg is in and it hangs in their living rooms," Radja said.

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