Wake Forest football’s victory over Temple University was unexpected, thrilling and just simply incredible. Everyone will remember the experience differently, whether they were on the field, in the stands or at home watching.
One truly unique bowl game experience shared by very few students is that of the Dance Team, Cheer Team, mascot and The Spirit of the Old Gold and Black marching band.
“This game is probably one of my top five college experiences,” said junior Dance Team member Natalie Kerman, “I love dancing, I love what I do and I love cheering on the Deacs.”
Athletes from the Spirit Program, which includes dance, cheer and the Demon Deacon mascot made the journey to perform in Wake Forest’s first Bowl Game since 2011. Additionally, 72 members of the university’s marching band, The Spirit of the Old Gold and Black (SOTOGAB) sacrificed part of their break in order to support the Deacs with their performances.
“Our job is really to create a whole experience for the fans,” Kerman said. “Without us, the game would still happen, but it would be missing a certain energy that only the SOTOGAB and the Spirit Program can provide.”
On Christmas Day, students flew to Washington D.C. from their home towns. Some came from as far away as California. Those who lived close enough to school took a bus that left from campus and arrived in the city eight hours later. Everyone stayed at the official Military Bowl hotel, a mere two blocks from the White House.
On Monday the 26th, their day began with a small performance at the official Bowl Luncheon, where both football teams and their staff attended lunch in a camaraderie event.
After this, dance and cheer practiced for an hour in the hotel while SOTOGAB bussed to a local high school, where a former Wake Forest basketball player is the athletic director, in order to practice for the next day’s game.
After practices were held to review material, everyone was given the rest of the day to explore the nation’s capital. From Smithsonian museums to monuments and eclectic noodle restaurants, the Wake Forest Spirit Program and band members covered the city.
For many, this was their very first time in Washington D.C.
“Being in the heart of the city and getting to tour it with my team was an amazingly unique opportunity,” said sophomore dancer Morgan Eaves, who had never been in the city before.
Despite the 3:30 p.m. game, dancers, cheerleaders, the mascot and band members departed D.C. at 7:45 AM for Annapolis in order to participate in the 1.6-mile parade from Historic Downtown Annapolis to the Navy-marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“Since I had the megaphone during the parade, I would yell with much more energy and volume anytime Temple fans were next to us,” freshman Christian Trevathan said.
The tailgate performance later in the afternoon ended memorably with Bob McCreary, who recently donated 15 million dollars to Wake Forest Athletics, conducting the fight song.
“Everyone agrees that it was a pretty cool honor to have Bob McCreary conducting, but it was also very entertaining to watch,” drummer Cole Teander explained.
By the time the game started, the excitement in the stadium was palpable. Looking up from the turf, cheer and dance members could see hundreds of fans whirling gold poms in the crisp Annapolis evening.
The fans were teetering at the edge of their seats, the fans were providing rapt attention to the field.
“The audience seemed to respond to your every action and although it seemed scary at first, it became one of my favorite parts about the whole game itself,” Trevathan said.
While a passionate stadium improves the crowd’s experience and encourages the players, for cheer and dance performers, performing to a large crowd adds another level of excitement to their job.At most away games it is difficult for a large crowd of people to travel and support the team, so it often feels as if the band and Spirit Program are performing more for the opposing team’s fans rather than Wake fans.
This game was different. “We weren’t on Deacon turf, but we were performing to a Deacon crowd,” Kerman said.