The Kansas State Classy Cats had a very busy April. Before the team went to nationals to become back-to-back 1A Pom champions, four senior dancers spent time in Kansas City Chiefs gear. Kaitlyn Woicke, Caitlyn Rude and Elliegh Peters were finalists for the 2023-24 Kansas City Chiefs cheerleading squad. Their fellow Classy Cat, Josi, made the roster.
“That would be our coach Sarah Heptig,” Josi said about why the Classy Cats are thriving. “She is very experienced in the dance world, and I will never doubt a decision she makes. She is a great people person; she knows what she’s doing with dance. She has transformed this program.”
Heptig has been coaching the Classy Cats since the four dancers’ freshman years. Her guidance helped them to face this new opportunity, no matter the difficulties.
“It [tryouts] was definitely terrifying, but it was really cool,” Peters said. “I am definitely proud of all of us who went through it because you were throwing yourself into it. No matter how much you could prep, you don’t understand what it is like until you are there.”
The process started in February with clinics to help train for tryouts eventually leading to final cuts from March 31-April 2. Before the three days of finals, the cheerleaders went through semifinals which included a zoom interview with the team cheer coach, therapist, head of public relations and Tavia Shackles, wife of Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt.
“It was very nerve-racking,” Rude said. “I think they were testing if we could hold a conversation since cheerleaders are supposed to be able to talk to anybody about anything.”
A group of questions that came up during tryout interviews revolved around the NFL world, such as “Why don’t the Miami Dolphins have a 1st round pick in the draft?” Questions like this and more throughout all stages of tryouts highlighted the knowledge Chiefs Cheerleaders possess.
“We had one paper test that was on a plethora of knowledge like Chiefs history and football knowledge, penalties … players, what players we [Chiefs] just signed as free agents,” Rude said about tests during final cuts. “Some people might view NFL cheerleading as like, they don’t know very much. I feel like that’s the stereotype, but these girls know everything; they know more than the teammates probably.”
Outside of testing, finals included spending three days with around 60 other candidates dancing and performing alongside each other. When competing for just 10 spots, it is important to maintain self-confidence.
“We’re all different, but we all look the same,” Woicke said. “Even as a dancer of 17 years, you can still get intimidated by the girl next to you. No matter how many times they’ll tell us to not compare yourself to the other person, you probably are.”
Woicke said that even though there could be some self-doubt, the atmosphere the Chiefs put together was reassuring.
“The TV show [Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team] is so intense,” Woicke said. “They critique weight and stuff, and this is nothing like this process.”
The three days of dancing, testing, speaking and more put the dancers to the total test. The experience, cut or not, benefited those who participated.
“I definitely think that it helped with confidence,” Peters said. “If you asked me to publicly speak beforehand I would’ve been like, ‘No way, don’t want to do it.’ I think it showed me that I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
As tryouts ended, the Classy Cats had one day to wait for an official Instagram video announcement of the new Chiefs Cheerleaders on April 3. The anticipation led to the reveal that Josi had made the team.
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“You obviously want to see your own face, but I was looking for all my friends too,” Rude. “I saw Josi and was so excited, but you have to keep watching.”
As Josi moves on to the Chiefs, all four dancers hope to continue to dance in the future. Their dancing journeys started away from each other as children, but the four Classy Cats grew together from their first experience at K-State to where they are now.
“Freshman year we were so scared during our first game at the Bill [Snyder Family Stadium],” Josi said. “It’s cool to see everyone how much they’ve grown into their bodies and their shells and really be themselves.”