Leading the Charge (Or Cheer)

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Among the 24 cheerleaders who have been in the Bahamas this week, Abbie M. has a special distinction. During the 2008 season, Abbie was featured on ESPN’s Bill Simmons’ column as the ‘Cheerleader of the Week.’ The small honor has made Abbie one of the more popular girls on the team.

But Abbie isn’t concerned with that. For her, it’s all about the team.

The five-year veteran has attended many of her teammates’ shoots, getting up early even when she didn’t need to, attending their hair and make-up sessions and taking her own behind-the-scenes photos. She’s also been on hand during many of the activities throughout the week.

“We’re all so appreciative to be here,” the former co-captain said. “It’s the experience of a lifetime. I’ll always remember it. I hope I stay friends with these girls forever.

“We’re all away from our families and our hometowns, but we have made it our hometown here.”

One of Abbie’s strongest leadership traits is that she is one of the best on the team at memorizing dances and helping others learn them. She grew up dancing, thanks to a mother who owns a dance studio.

“She has always loved performing,” said Dana, Abbie’s mom, who also teaches dance at Towson University. “The Ravens have been a great thing for her.”

And she has been good for the Ravens, as well. She often arranges for extra practices, and has acted as an impromptu coach this week in between the girls’ shoots and events.

For Abbie, the team comes first, knowing every little bit helps.

“It’s really intimidating being on a team like this,” she said. “It’s especially hard as a rookie. The more you practice, the better you look.”

Spending so much time around this year’s team has gotten Abbie very excited for the 2009 season.

“We all mesh together,” she said, noting that there isn’t the clear distinction between rookies and veterans as she’s heard there is on other cheerleader teams. “Not all girls have the motivation that the girls on this year’s team have.”

Abbie is close with many of the girls on the squad, specifically Cassandra, her roommate back home.

“She puts [The Ravens] above everything,” Cassandra said. “She’s always trying to come up with ideas to make the team better.”

Abbie even worked hard to make the calendar better, working out hard in the weeks prior to her shoot. As someone who was featured in last year’s calendar, she also worked with the rookies and first-timers to make sure they were comfortable.

“She watched my shoot and stood behind [photographer] Shawn and gave me the thumbs up or thumbs down,” Cassandra reflected on her shoot. “She has given everyone honest advice and been a leader from the beginning.”

As for Abbie’s own shoot, it went by quickly, perhaps a result of her confidence after being shot last year. The leader said she simply took what she learned last year and applied it to this year.

“I’m glad that I impressed,” she said, but in typical fashion, switched focus to her team.

With leaders like her on the squad this year, success at M&T Bank Stadium won’t just be on the field. It will be on the sidelines, as well.  

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