Posted on April 8, 2013 at 11:01 AM
PHOENIX -- It was a rush of nerves for many of the women auditioning for a spot on the Cardinals Cheer team.
Just ask Amanda Kukkola, who has dreamed of trying out since she was five years old. And to top it off, the 18-year-old has had to work harder than most to get here.
"I had actually gotten open heart surgery over… last year, winter break," said Kukkola adding, "Once I ended up healing, going through my full recovery from having my open heart surgery…I'm able to be able to prepare myself more physically now."
The 18-year-old did just that by attending the Cardinals Cheerleaders Audition Bootcamp in February as well as the dance clinics taught by current cheerleaders.
"I've done everything that I could possibly do to prepare myself for this audition," she said. "I've gone to the clinics and I've done all the tips that the girls have given out and that Heather has given us. So I've prepared myself mentally and physically for this and I'm just so excited to be here right now."
Cardinals Cheerleaders Director Heather Karberg has been with the team for ten seasons and has high expectations for those who want to be a part of the organization.
"I am looking for the perfect girl," she said. "Somebody who not only can dance but has the communication skills because a lot of what we do is out in the community."
Karberg is looking for girls who are well-rounded and prepared to take on the responsibility that comes with the title, adding that she wants, "good dancers but also people who are goal-oriented and understand that this is a job as well. It's not just your typical high school cheerleading team."
Nearly 250 team hopefuls attended the clinics. About 40 finalists would make it through by the end of Saturday's audition. And returning cheerleaders had to put in just as much work as the newcomers.
"Their spot isn't guaranteed," said Karberg. "I think that the returners know what they have to lose and so I think that they're almost more nervous than the people who are in there who have really no idea of what the whole program entails."
There is no set number of finalists or team members, but Karberg expects the team to be, "anywhere from 25 to 32."
The finalists who would make it through to audition Sunday were announced and Kukkola was excited to hear her number called.
"It's so so exciting to make it to finals," she said. "All these thoughts are just going through my mind and I'm just so excited to be here right now."
Members of the team will be announced later this week.