Friday, April 25, 2008
By R.B. Headley
Fort Morgan Times
Fort Morgan Times
The pain in Liz Harris’ neck wasn’t even connected to the 20 Denver Broncos judges who were probing her football knowledge with John Lynch-like intensity.
“I was practicing my dance routine a few days before and jammed my neck,” the 2000 Fort Morgan High School alumnus revealed. “I twisted a vertebrae, so I had to go visit the chiropractor before I went back for the tryout.”
Ouch. Not a good sign considering this former Mustang state medal-winning gymnast had already failed one year earlier in her first attempt to make the Broncos Cheerleading squad.
Plus, at age 26, Robert and Teri Harris’ daughter was also admittedly one of the oldest among more than 200 dancers competing for the 34 roster spots.
“It’s not something you can do forever,” she said. “At some point, you do get too old.”
Yet Liz never surrendered a goal that began “when dad started taking me to Broncos games around age 9.” The family purchased season tickets right near Mile High Stadium’s 20-yard line, exactly where Liz could closely observe what was then a brand-new cheerleading/dance team.
Meanwhile — and perhaps just as importantly — she became equally interested in what was happening on the gridiron. Liz loved all the names from John Elway to Jake Plummer to especially...
“Karl Mecklenburg (former Pro Bowl linebacker). I was a big fan of him, and I think it was mainly because of the way the (public address) announcer said his name,” she recalled.
This football knowledge played a huge role in “the most nerve-wracking thing” she’s ever done. Performing before 70,000 fans was no sweat, because Liz danced for and now coaches the University of Colorado’s “CU Express” team.
However, standing still while being questioned easily became the most stressful part of this spring’s Broncos Cheerleading tryouts.
“You get dressed in a business suit, go in on Sunday and stand before those 20 judges,” Liz explained. “They ask you personal questions, football questions and you have to know the Broncos roster. They asked me to name one tight end, and I knew three: Tony Scheffler, Daniel Graham and Nate Jackson.”
In other words, Liz basically “aced” this exam like Elway dominated his final Super Bowl appearance. She credited all those Broncos games plus current boyfriend Reid Kahl, another 2000 Mustang alum who now coaches the Wheat Ridge High School football team.
“Oh yeah, we’ve been known to have the NFL Network on all day,” she said.
But while Liz enjoys football, she was truly delighted about resuming her number one reason to take on the weeklong Broncos tryout process.
“I was just thankful I could get my dance clothes back on and do what I do best,” the Arvada-based hairstylist revealed.
A “Staying Alive” theme developed as 200 prospects were cut to 100, then 69, then down to small groups of three. Contenders must learn a specific dance as judges observe every technique including kicks, splits and pirouettes.
Finalists then perform their own creative dances that “showcase” their specific talents.
“After you’re done, they (the judges) tell you ‘we’ll be back in 20 minutes,’” Liz said. “But it’s more like an hour and a half.”
That’s a time when Liz could focus on other good Fort Morgan friends like “old” buddy Kollette Klassen. Kollette’s pursuing other life goals after spending the past few seasons as a Broncos Cheerleader, but that will never break a bond that began during their Morgan elementary school days.
“She (Klassen) has been my best friend for 19 years,” Liz explained. “And she’s helped me so much through this journey. Most don’t make the (Broncos Cheerleading) team their first year, and Kollette encouraged me to try again. Plus she’s such a calming influence — whenever I look at her, my nervousness just goes away.”
So a nearly 90-minute wait was no problem, especially when Liz received the long-awaited good news on this Sunday, April 6:
She’d earned her spot on this year’s Denver Broncos Cheerleading team.
That’s three recent Bronco cheerleaders who’ve owned Fort Morgan ties: Liz, Kollette and Morgan resident Emily Harper. Harper has also decided to pursue other activities this fall.
Both the fun and hard work are still ahead for Liz. Practices begin in June and there’s a weeklong trip for the annual cheerleader calendar photo shoot.
Liz will continue to coach the CU Express dance team while traveling throughout the Denver area for her full-time hairstyling profession. She also spends one day each week working with Call’s Wheat Ridge team on strength, flexibility and agility.
Don’t forget the many hours of community events involving the Broncos Cheerleading team.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the Broncos juniors cheerleaders, and hopefully being a good influence for them,” she said. “It is a lot of work. You never sit down on (Broncos) game days. You’re constantly on the go.”