Auditions Begin for 'Stepped-Up' '09 Crew

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Flight Crew First Round Tryouts 5/2/09

While the Jets rookie minicamp continued today at the Atlantic Health Training Center, the organization hosted its quarterfinal tryouts for the Flight Crew across the street at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

"I'm happy with the quality of girls who came out," said Crew director Denise Garvey. "Today I've seen a lot of promising girls who I would like to invite back for the semifinal round."

The FDU gym was closed to outsiders as an outstanding group of hopefuls lined up to make a favorable first impression. It was a diverse group of young ladies, each of whom was given 90 seconds to make her case to Garvey along with Brian Mulligan, the Jets' director of gameday operations, and Mike Alperstein, Mulligan's right-hand man.

"We're definitely looking to step up the squad for this year," Garvey said when asked what she is searching for. "We would like girls who are attractive, girls who look good in a uniform and girls that are poised and outgoing so that they can represent the organization at appearances.

"Personality will definitely play into it, and then the dance aspect will play into it a lot with the rehearsals and being able to pick up choreography quickly. I would say it's the overall look of an NFL cheerleader coupled with dance-ability and a strong personality."

Mimi definitely has the look of an NFL cheerleader. A Westchester, N.Y., native, she made the Miami Dolphins squad last year and actually was on the sidelines during their home opener against the Jets. But this year she hopes to cheer for the Green & White.

"In Miami we were dancing but it was more cheerleading-style dancing, whereas in New York I could tell the choreography is emphasized more," Mimi said. "In Miami I could tell there were a lot of people who had zero dance experience and they could deal with it. I feel with the Jets, if you have zero dance experience, then you might have a tough time."

Julie is a Warren, N.J., resident and Chatham High School alum. She's been dancing since she was just 2½ and performed on North Carolina Charlotte's dance team. She recently moved back north and is excited for this chance.

"My brother actually brought out some pictures the other day and there was one where I was a little baby holding a green and white football in my hands," Julie said. "I was maybe 10 months old, but every school I've ever cheered for has been green and white."

After the completion of today's quarterfinals, the Jets will host their semifinals Sunday morning at FDU. And while the quarters featured freestyle where anything goes, the girls will have to nail a choreographed routine to close the weekend.

"I've done maybe a little bit more cheerleading-wise than dancing, but I'll give it a shot," said Elana, a Staten Island resident who spent the past two years dancing for the NBA's New Jersey Nets. "I had a few of my friends who are dancers try to teach me a few things and it went out the window as soon as I got out there."

Next Saturday, the Flight Crew will go clubbing as the Jets host the finals at Pacha NYC. The afternoon event will be closed to the public. The list of celebrity judges include Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, entertainer Donnie Klang, WWE ring announcer/singer Lilian Garcia, CBS Sports reporter Sam Ryan and SNY's Steve Overmyer.

"Pacha will be the place where it all happens," Garvey said. "A lot of people will be extremely excited at the start of a brand new experience in their lives, and maybe there will be some from last year's Flight Crew who will say, 'It was fun while I did it, but competition is fierce in New York.'

Most of the '08 Flight Crew enjoyed their experience so much that they're trying out for the squad again. The members from last year's team received automatic byes to the final round, but that's where the byes will end.

"To say you have 19 of 22 of your former team that want to come back and be a part of it again, I think that's exceptional. That re-tryout rate is normally not that high," said Garvey, who is entering her third season as the Crew's director. "I know 60 [there will be between 50 and 60 finalists] will be high for them because they really want to earn their spot back and they know what it's like to be a part of the team. But these girls at that point will be more attached to the possibility of getting on the squad, having gone through a week and a half of auditions."

Along with unveiling some tweaks to their uniforms, there's a strong possibility the Jets will make a swimsuit calendar in the coming year. The Crew has come a long way since its infancy in 2007.

"It's still in the works, it's yet to be made, but it's very exciting regardless," Garvey said of the calendar. "It's something we're entertaining going into year three. The first year was extremely cautious because we weren't sure how the fans would react — I was pretty sure how fans would react."

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, the Flight Crew has grown, and it promises to be better than ever.

"I do feel like, going into year three, the quality of girls we have coming to audition has definitely gotten better even from last year to this year," Garvey said. "I'm excited."

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