Kicking up their heels for the playoffs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / December 30, 2000

LAPLACE – Take a closer look when the New Orleans Saints are playing the Rams this weekend, and you’ll see some familiar faces.

Angelic Sutherland, Renae Decker, Shannon Hinton and Brooke Crocker are team members of the SaintSations dance team, using their dance skills and athletic ability to promote the NFC West champions.

Decker, 20, is in her second year on the SaintSations squad and made the team when she was 18 years old. She heard of the opportunity while still onthe Desty Darlings team at Destrehan High School from SaintSation veteran Samatha Cazelot.

“On the first day there were 100 girls,” Decker recalled of tryouts. “Wewent through two dances and an interview. I made it through two cuts andfound out the following week. I was astonished! I was in shock!”The tryout routine is “so intimidating and so stressful,” she said, adding every SaintSation must try out every season to remain on the squad.

The SaintSations are made up of 40 young women, some coming from as far away at Lafayette.

“We’re all different in every way, but we’re all really good friends. It’s like asorority, and now that we’re winning, it’s great!” she said.

The daughter of Gary and Agnes Decker of Destrehan, she still lives at home with her parents while attending Delgado Community College.

“I want to be a sports broadcaster, especially football and basketball,” she revealed.

She also has a brother, Allen, who works at General Aviation.

Sutherland, at 25, is in her third year as a SaintSation. Originally fromWallace, she attended East St. John High School where she was acheerleader. She now lives in LaPlace, and her day job is as a speechtherapist at Fifth Ward Elementary School in Reserve. She also has a son,Troy, age 5.

The daughter of Stephanie Watkins of Wallace and Tyrone Sutherland of St.

James, she first heard of the SaintSations squad while at LSU when one of her friends made the team and urged her to come along the following year.

“I like the dancing part more,” she said, adding she basically does it “for the love of dancing.”She admitted, though, that a fascination with sports does help. With abrother, Tyrone Jr., a senior football player at Northwestern LouisianaUniversity, and a brother, Randy, a freshman at Grambling, it runs in the family.

Brooke Crocker, 19, of LaPlace, graduated last year from Destrehan and is loving the experience of her first season as a SaintSation. “It’s all about thepassion for dancing and the perks,” she said.

Although each SaintSation is only paid $10 per game, each has opportunities for paid promotional appearances which, when the team is doing well, allows them to boost their income considerably.

In addition, SaintSation members do many charity appearances, and they are constantly astonished when someone wants an autographed photo.

The daughter of Rosalie and James Hauk of LaPlace and Lyle Crocker of San Bernardino, Calif., Crocker was surprised she made the squad. “I was soprepared NOT to make it!” she recalled.

Now attending Tulane University as a broadcast mass communications major, she’s told by her mother the football team’s success is her doing. “My momsays they’re doing so well ‘because you’re there,'” she said.

Shannon Hinton, 19, is also in her first year on the SaintSation squad, but she made her mark locally as a past Sugar Queen and the reigning Miss Andouille.

Hinton, daughter Maurice and Kathleen Hinton of LaPlace, has been dancing since she was 3 years old. A graduate of St. Charles Catholic High where shewas on the dance squad, she’s now a dance major at Nicholls State University and plans to open her own dance studio.

Now a hostess and bartender at Bull’s Corner, she said dance is one of her life’s priorities. Being a member of the SaintSations, though, has its ownadvantages, such as the two season tickets they receive.

“There’s no set body type they look for,” she said. She advises any dancer inthe River Parishes to at least try out, and added, “River Parishes girls rule! They’re awesome!” The SaintSations are directed by Stacey Shum and choreographed by Lani Neil. Practices are Tuesday and Thursday evenings for two hours each. “Wedon’t even get water breaks,” said Crocker.

And it can be hazardous out there. Squad member Jill Gilmore was struck bya hurrying CBS camera truck along the sideline and sustained a hairline fracture of her foot, putting her out for the season, along with the Saints headliners.

However, the fun of being at every home game, keeping up their dance skills, being a local celebrity and making a host of new friends makes up for it. SaysHinton, “It’s fun!”

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