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Panthers select 2011 TopCats

Photo by Matthew Brinkley

CHARLOTTE – After Panthers officials sent out congratulatory emails Tuesday morning, 25 women took a moment to celebrate the individual accomplishment of being named a TopCats cheerleader for 2011.

From here on out, though, it's all about the team.

"Talent is important, but we're not out there dancing by ourselves," said Charlotte native Laura Ruble, who was selected to the squad for the third consecutive year. "We're a family."

While Ruble already was a member of the family, Lindsey Yoder is among those just joining it. Yoder didn't make the squad a year ago when she tried out for the first time, but Tuesday she learned she had been selected when she received an email at work.

"I screamed, and all these heads popped up," Yoder said. "I was so excited. I'm still on Cloud Nine.

"The girls that tried out were all top-notch. I certainly wouldn't want to have been a judge."

The task of deciding who received an invitation and who will have to wait until next year was a difficult one that fell largely on former TopCats cheerleaders Tina Becker and Richelle Grant. Becker - the Panthers' cheerleader manager - and Grant, cheerleader choreographer, oversaw a process that started nearly a month ago with 150 hopefuls.

"It's a very difficult process," Becker said. "We've been through it before, so we understand the anxiety and nerves involved. We also understand the excitement."

Grant got a quick look at how the new squad will work together during tryouts, but being able to dance and being able to do it in a group setting aren't the only qualities the TopCats consider.

"In addition to great dancers, we're looking for women who can serve as role models in our community," Grant said.

Ruble and Yoder certainly seem to qualify.

Ruble, who teaches biology at her high school alma mater, is commuting about two-and-a-half hours twice a week to pursue her Masters degree at Duke University. Yoder, an engineer in Durham, N.C., will drive two hours weekly for TopCats practice.

The TopCats already are hard at work, taking requests for appearances around the Carolinas.

Following are the 25 ladies who made the squad.

Marissa Acker
Courtney Aldredge
Myra Aznar
Jenny Baker
Ashley Beasley
Laura Bebo
Katie Birkbichler
Erin Donovan
Megan Eager
Cynthia English
Jessica Fife
Kiswuana Green
Katie Guthrie
Candis Halligan
Rachel Hinson
Kristy Palmer
Shannon Phillips
Jocelyn Roper
Laura Ruble
Stacey Sanderson
LeAnne Thornburg
Samantha Vonsiatsky
Shelby Williams
Eiesha Williamson
Lindsey Yoder

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