Auditions for Viking cheerleading squad attract some students

Nathan Halverson

Hundreds of spectators ringed the rotunda at the Mall of America on Wednesday to watch hopeful women audition for the Minnesota Vikings cheerleading squad.

The participants kicked, cheered and danced in front of a panel of judges who would determine which of the 53 would make the 30-woman squad. Several of the women clad in crop tops and hot pants were University students.

The University has long been represented in the Vikings cheerleading squad. Last year, 16 of the 30 women were current students or had graduated from the University. Next year’s squad will have five current University students.

Applicants say the job provides students with a chance to work in a professional environment and perform in front of tens of thousands of raving fans.

“I’ve learned a lot about communication with people and a lot about balancing my time,” said Kendall Iverson, a former Vikings cheerleader and nutrition senior. “I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.”

Iverson cheered for the squad last year and helped choreograph dances during the cheerleading auditions, which began in April and ended Wednesday.

Cheerleading coach Tami Krause, a University graduate, said the women will earn between $8,000 and $10,000 in pay and benefits. Cheerleaders receive amenities such as free massages, tanning, make-up and chiropractic care.

Laura, a communications studies sophomore, was on the team last year. All cheerleaders are required to re-try out.

“It’s really nerve-wracking,” she said.

Laura was named ESPN Tuesday Morning Quarterback’s cheerleader of the week last November.

But Laura said it is not all glitter and lights.

“There’s also the freaky side of it,” she said. Some admirers take their enthusiasm a little too far.

For that reason, it is squad policy not to release cheerleaders’ last names.

Despite the threat of stalkers, Laura said it is worth it.

“It’s just a great break from reality,” she said.

The tryouts for next season’s squad began at the Vikings’ training camp at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minn. The auditions were open to all participants 18 and older.

The event attracted 127 women.

Three rounds of cuts whittled the number of hopefuls to 53.

Sarah Klaphake, a journalism sophomore, and Liz Rinaldi, an elementary education sophomore, are former Gophers cheerleaders who showed up for the tryouts.

“It would be the top of cheerleading,” Klaphake said.

Klaphake did not make it through the cuts.

But Rinaldi did. She was invited to the April training camp that led up to the final cut at the Mall of America.

“It was a great learning experience,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

She found out Thursday she did not make the squad. She was disappointed but hopeful for her chances next year.

Rinaldi said the opportunity will assist her in the future.

“We had an interview process, and I think that will benefit me in future interviews for my profession,” she said.

Melissa, a high school senior who will be attending the University next year, got the call from Krause all the women wanted.

“I’m really, really looking forward to the experience,” she said. But she knows it will not be easy to balance academics with cheerleading as well working as a hostess at Champps restaurant. She said she will learn to ration her time and establish a routine. She does not think much could tarnish the celebrity of being a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader.

“I don’t think I’d get sick of it unless the same people were hounding me all the time,” she said.

Nathan Halverson welcomes comments at [email protected]