Loyola student cheers Saints on from the sidelines
Marketing junior Lauren Jones cheers on the New Orleans Saints during the 2013 season. Jones spent roughly six hours a week in dance practices to prepare for home games. PHOTO COURTESY NEW ORLEANS SAINTSATIONS
Lauren Jones, marketing junior, traded her Loyola dance team pompoms to become a member of the New Orleans Saints' Saintsation cheerleading team.
Before she was a member of Loyola's dance team her freshman and sophomore years, Jones considered herself a ballerina. At Loyola, she adjusted to more contemporary dance forms such as hip hop and jazz.
Although she was able to transition smoothly into new dance genres while at Loyola, her Saintsation journey didn't happen overnight.
Jones first tried out for the Saintsations in spring 2012. She made it to the final round, but was cut shortly after, causing her to become determined to make the team the following year. Jones began working even harder to fulfill her dream and overcome rejection, because she said nothing worth having comes easy. Her mindset switched to focusing on factors she could control.
"I knew I could control my dancing, fitness, health, and body. I was like, let me make sure I'm eating right, in the gym as much as I can, but also balancing my studies and look where I am now," Jones said.
Dana Dolliole, Saintsation veteran, met Jones when she first tried out for the Saintsations. Although Jones didn't make the cut, Dolliole still kept in touch, motivating her to never give up on her dream.
"I would tell her to do her best, never take anything to heart, and give it her all," Dolliole said.
Jones said she went into "dancing boot camp" mode by working with a trainer, exercising five to six days of the week, and changing up her eating habits.
Her improvements didn't go unnoticed. Jones made the 2013 team and was finally able to fulfill her dream of becoming a Saintsation.
Dolliole said she was happy to see Jones auditioning and joining the Saintsations the following year.
Each year, Saintsation veterans randomly draw names to become rookie's "big sisters" on the team. Dolliole said it was fate when she picked Jones' name.
"She's great on the team, and she's always going above and beyond," Dolliole said. "This whole time, I've been very proud and happy for her. I really do feel like a big sister."
Jones continues to work out five to six times a week. She said she enjoys cardio and runs to stay fit, but also sprinkles in squats and intensive abdomen workouts. Jones balances her workouts by eating three big meals and two small meals each day, and her on-the-go snacks include granola, fruit, apples, and bananas.
"You want good things to go into your body so it can function correctly," Jones said.
She said staying healthy has become a part of her lifestyle.
"I don't look at food as 'this is healthy so it's not going to taste good.' I look at it like 'is this going to benefit me later?'" Jones said.
Jones had to give up her ballet minor and her spot on Loyola's Golden Eyes dance team once she joined the Saintsations, but she attributes her success to Loyola's dance team.
"I probably wouldn't be a Saintsation if I wasn't on Loyola's dance team," Jones said.
Jones believes becoming a Saintsation incorporates everything she loves about dance.
"I've always been a Saints fan, a dancer and dreamed of performing in front of thousands of people. I just felt like it was the perfect balance putting them together," Jones said.
Alisia Senegal, biology senior and former Loyola dance team captain, had the opportunity to co-captain with Jones last year. She said they were always in sync, and Jones knew what she was thinking before she even said it.
"Lauren was my right-hand man. She helped by making up new dances, cutting the music for all of our performances, and running practices when I had organic test reviews," Senegal said.
Senegal said their friendship grew into a sisterly bond. Senegal said it's always "fun" to dance together, which is why the duo performed a dance for the Black Student Union's annual talent show for two consecutive years.
"Dancing for both of us was like an outlet and most importantly we love doing it," Senegal said.
Senegal said they also met on weekends to work on choreography, and even remembers the weekend when they tried to master BeyoncÃ©'s video dances. Their practices paid off last winter when the Loyola dance team was fortunate enough to be a part of BeyoncÃ©'s Super Bowl half time performance, Senegal said.
Juggling school and being a Saintsation hasn't been an easy task, but Jones said time management is key. She says the Saintsations only practice on Tuesdays and Thursday for about two and a half hours.
"If you think about it, I'm at Loyola more than I am at practice," Jones said.
Jones said her favorite player is Drew Brees. Even though Jones is from Atlanta, home of the Saints' rival team, the Atlanta Falcons, she said it doesn't hinder her love for the Saints.
"My family is originally from New Orleans so I've always been a Saints fan," Jones said. "I love my Saints."
Jones said that becoming a Saintsation has been a dream come true.
"Being a Saintsation is something I wanted to do for a very long time. Now that the season is almost over, it still doesn't feel real," Jones said.
Diana Mirfiq can be reached at email@example.com
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