Super Bowl season full of thrills for local cheerleader

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It’s two weeks after her hometown New England Patriots completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and Canton’s Alyssa Crane still has to pinch herself to be sure it was real.

After all, never in her wildest dreams could she have envisioned the season playing out the way that it did — her first as a Patriots cheerleader. Never could she have imagined being right there on the sidelines on the world’s biggest stage, cheering on Brady and company at Houston’s NRG Stadium as they engineer a victory that will be talked about and cherished for generations to come.

Pats cheerleader Alyssa Crane had an amazing first season on the squad. (Dwight Darian photo)

Pats cheerleader Alyssa Crane had an amazing first season on the squad. (Dwight Darian photo)

“It was incredible,” said the 2011 CHS graduate and former Bulldog cheerleader. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to describe it. The whole experience has just been crazy and it’s flown by.”

Since making the squad last April, Crane has been having the best time of her life. But it took commitment and dedication, not to mention a healthy dose of resolve, for her to reach this point.

A dancer from a young age, she had initially tried out for the team in 2015, advancing through several rounds of auditions before being cut at the end of the final phase, Patriots Cheerleader Boot Camp.

“The first time around was a huge learning process,” recalled Crane. “It was pretty devastating [to not make the team], but now I kind of think of it as a blessing in disguise.”

In a 2012 story on cheerleader boot camp, Patriots Cheerleader Director Tracy Sormanti told the Boston Globe that a candidate has to have “everything” in order to make the squad. “She can’t just be pretty,” Sormanti said. “She can’t just be talented, she can’t just be smart, but she has to be all of the above.”

And while it may have taken her two tries to be selected, it is clear that Crane has all of those traits and then some.

A graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a degree in business and a minor in theater and dance, she was an outstanding student both in high school and in college and has proven to be just as comfortable at a public appearance as she is on the dance floor.

But her single greatest passion is dance, and the fact that most of the Patriots cheerleaders’ routines are “dance-based” is what drew her to the squad in the first place. She also teaches dance at a local studio to students in pre-kindergarten through high school, and she has grown to love teaching almost as much as performing.

In terms of her cheerleading responsibilities, Crane said the biggest commitment is Sunday home games, which includes several hours of practice and preparation prior to kickoff. She remembers being a little nervous before the start of her first preseason game in August, but mostly in an “excited way.”

“I knew I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing,” she said. “And right when you step out and you can feel the energy from the crowd, I just knew I was in the right place.”

And while the compensation they receive is relatively modest, there are some notable perks that go along with being a Pats cheerleader, including a trip to the Bahamas for their annual swimsuit calendar photo shoot.

Crane said the trip was an “amazing” experience, as was the September calendar launch party at the Hall at Patriot Place, where the cheerleaders got to perform in front of family and friends.

Besides cheering at games and participating in the calendar shoot, Patriots cheerleaders also make hundreds of public appearances at community and business events throughout the year. Crane said at least two or three squad members attend each event, and they range from performances to meet-and-greets to various charitable programs. Her personal favorite has been welcoming home soldiers from overseas, including one particularly memorable appearance at Pease International Airport in New Hampshire where they also met with soldiers who were preparing to be deployed.

Crane said moments like those are what being a Patriots cheerleader is “really all about.” “Everyone in New England is just Patriots crazed,” she said, “and it’s just super cool and also kind of humbling to see how happy your presence makes other people.”

As for her whirlwind experience during Super Bowl week, Crane said the cheerleaders were involved in “every aspect,” from the send-off rally at Patriot Place, to a slew of media appearances down in Houston — including a segment they taped for Inside Edition with four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. They also took part in a pep rally for Patriots fans prior to the game; performed during the two-minute warning on Super Bowl Sunday; and joined the players and coaches at the championship parade in Boston on the Tuesday after the big game.

Crane said there were other memorable moments while in Houston, including watching Lady Gaga perform during the halftime show and attending the Super Bowl after-party featuring musical guests John Legend, Old Dominion, Pitbull and Lil Wayne.

She added that the entire Patriots playoff run was full of memories, from dancing with Pats tight end Martellus Bennett after the AFC Championship victory, to pumping up the crowds at the send-off rally, to all of the thrilling moments on the field of play.

“The whole thing, it was all just so surreal,” she said. “I’m really thankful to have had this opportunity — I can’t even express that enough. It’s truly been amazing.”

And yet as thrilling and as memorable as the past year has been, Crane said it is the new friendships she has made with the other members of the team that has made it all worthwhile.

“These girls have become like sisters,” she said. “I’ve made the best friends on the squad and we’ve been through so much together. We’ve seen each other at our best and at our toughest moments; we’ve been through it all.”

Amazingly, auditions for next year’s squad are just around the corner, and Crane said she is definitely planning to try out and would be honored to be selected for a second season. “Without a doubt,” she said. “I gave it everything I had for this season and it was the best I could ever ask for. And if I could do it again I would be so happy.”

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