I wake up to the sound of my alarm and groggily roll over to look at the clock. It reads 5:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right.
I get up, turn my lights on to give myself a better chance of not crawling back under the covers for "just five more minutes" and shuffle to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast.
I crawl back in bed to eat my breakfast and get some caffeine in me while I come to terms with the fact that I have to be flipping upside down in a little more than an hour. Despite being exhausted, I am still extremely excited because IT'S GAME DAY!
I throw my hair into a bun, put on my WVU gear, and head outside to meet my ride at 6:40 a.m. We collect all the other twirlers, listen to our hype music, swing by Starbucks, and make it to the field just in time for our 7:30 a.m. rehearsal. We make our way with all of our equipment from the parking garage to the stadium. Although we're all in great shape, we're pathetically out of breath by the time we get to the field.
We set down our stuff, get out our sticks, and start stretching out. Practice shoes go on, we survey the weather, and start to warm up our tricks.
Our advisors guide us through our routines, having us practice partner exchanges, big tricks, and critical parts of both pregame and halftime.
We join the band and run pregame and halftime a few times before ending our early morning rehearsal. Even though it's only 9 a.m., it feels like an entire day has gone by.
We make our way to the football team's indoor practice facility (IPF) to have breakfast, Chick-fil-a, of course.
The whole band is sectioned into groups of friends sitting in blobs of discarded garment bags, clothing, and instruments on the astro-turf floor. The air smells of sweat, and everyone is ready for a well-deserved break (and maybe a nap).
I carefully put on my makeup and do my hair. We decide on which hair piece and earrings we want to wear, and then we help each other bobby pin which ever hair piece we chose onto our head. We change into our costumes, find a kind soul to strap us in because the hooks are so hard to reach ourselves, and apply our blinged-up face tatts to our cheek.
Then, we take our baton bags into the stadium for the game and begin the never-ending trek up Law School Hill where we see our families and have sectional time. After we get to the top, we visit with people until it's time to sing the Alma Mater and line up to march back down. Next comes my favorite part...
Drumline cadences us down the hill, and when their cadence is over, we break into a chant of verses from Bob Dylan's "Must Be Santa." Why? Because tradition.
As the last verse finishes, we round the corner to head towards the stadium for pregame. We wait until we're in the tunnel before frantically breaking off from the band to prepare for our pregame show, which is the hardest thing we do in my opinion.
We wait for drumline to finish their pow-wow of chants and take the field before moving into the tunnel once again.
The band screams and then my heart rate sky rockets as I hear the famous "1-2-Ready-Go!" that signals the start of the 220 run on. I feel the wind on my face and take in the crowd as I run to my spot. Our names are announced, and I wave when it's my turn.
We then hit our opening pose and get ready for downfield to Fight Mountaineers. Shortly after, we do the long tosses from 35 yard line to 35 yard line, not once, but twice! There are few moments that feel as good as catching them both and hearing the crowd go crazy.
I twirl my heart out and push harder as I get more and more tired throughout the show, taking it all in when we get to rest during the Alma Mater and National Anthem before jumping right back into it with Country Roads.
I finish Pregame off with my fellow twirlers in our big tag-endings. We kill it, naturally, and move to our positions to wait for our boys to run onto the field. On days when it's incredibly hot, you feel like your feet might blister from standing still on the hot turf, and on days when it's freezing you lose all the body heat you just built up, but the reward of being a part of the "Bring On The Team" moment makes it all worth it. 10... 9... 8... 7... 6... bum..bum..Bum, Bum, BUM, and cue the fight song!
We move off the field and over to the band stands where we catch our breath and watch the game. At about seven minutes until halftime, we start warming up.
We move to the sidelines with three minutes left in the second quarter, and prepare to perform our halftime show.
We twirl, most times impromptu, to the great music the band is playing, and I cannot describe the feeling of being out on the field in front of so many people. It's simply exhilarating.
After halftime, we grab a snack and head up to the concourse to see our families, talk to fans, and take pictures. We then come back down on the field to watch the rest of the game and cheer on our Mountaineers!
When we win (obviously) we stand in a line and sing Country Roads and then grab our batons and dance to the 10 yard line to perform while the band plays "Celebration".
We finish the evening by standing with our band family and singing the Alma Mater once again. I try to cherish every moment despite being absolutely exhausted.
As we march out of the stadium and reunite with our family and friends, I think about how another game out of my college twirling career has passed, and I try to remember one unique thing about it to carry with me throughout my years as I continue on this journey as well as after it has come to an end.
Performing with The Pride gives me a feeling unlike anything I have ever done. Even though the homesickness is real, I always feel like I'm right where I belong when I take the field at Milan Puskar Stadium.