Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eagles pick new cheerleading squad 

Posted by Sasha at 11:52 AM ET

By Peter Mucha, Staff Writer
The Philly Inquirer


Last night, in a sold-out show at the Annenberg Center, 60 women competed to make the new Eagles cheerleading squad.

Who landed the 38 spots was kept secret, however, until this morning, when the competitors could call a hotline.

"I was very impressed by the contestants last night, and I think that we have assembled an amazing group of women," said Barbara Zaun, director of cheerleading.

Judges, who included Eagles owner Christina Lurie and former Eagles Brian Baldinger and Vaughn Hebron, scored the women based on a fitness walk in swimsuits, a dance routine, and a Q&A session. The event was hosted by Vinnie the Crumb of WYSP (94.1).

"I thought it was a very tough competition this year because all the girls were beautiful. They all brought a lot of power to the table," said Madeline Kane, 20, who will return to the squad after not only winning last night's dance competition but earning the highest overall score.

All but one of the 24 women who sought to return made the squad again, said Zaun.

Among the 15 rookies are two sisters from Media - Paige and Danni-Lynn Bell - who are joining their sister, Nikki, who made the squad last year.

"I think it's amazing to have three sisters who all have similar interests, all love the performing arts, and all have the qualifications to make the squad," Zaun said.

Jamie Steinberger, 23, will be back for her third season, after winning the fitness portion competition, for which she wore a navy-blue-and-white-striped swimsuit.

"It's the easiest part of the night," she said. "We walk around in a circle and strut ourselves on the stage. That's about it."

She could, however, have done "about 75 push-ups in a row, without stopping," if the judges had asked, the West Chester University student said.

The Q&A portion was nerve-wracking, Kane said, and the women tried to prepare backstage by questioning one another.

Kane said she was so anxious, she wasn't sure afterward how she replied when asked what qualities she'd bring to the squad.

"I think I said I'm outgoing, I'm energetic, I'm a real team player," she said. ". . . I hope I said something that good."

Steinberger, on the other hand, was happy to be asked why she liked living in the United States. She spoke about appreciating America's freedom, opportunity and diversity.

"I was thrilled to get that question," she said.

The cheerleaders, who are paid an hourly rate, make $400 to $1,000 a month and hold other jobs, Zaun said. Among them are teachers, a medical student, an operating-room nurse, an accountant, and even a Defense Department employee.

The new squad's first appearance is set for Saturday, at the Eagles' draft party at Lincoln Financial Field.

Although tickets are no longer being sold, two tickets are being given to anyone who applies for an Eagles credit card at www.philadelphiaeagles.com.

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