Sehome High grad cheers from sidelines as Seattle Sea Gal

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 9, 2013 

Sehome High School graduate Hannah Vosburgh

Sehome High School graduate Hannah Vosburgh is now a Seattle Sea Gal. The 21-year-old is part of a team that cheers from the sidelines during the Seattle Seahawks games.

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

The first pro football game Hannah Vosburgh ever attended was her first game as a Seattle Sea Gal.

That was an exhibition game in August. In her first National Football League regular season game, the Seahawks' 12th Man - their ultra-loyal fan base - set an authenticated world record for most noise generated by a crowd.

Vosburgh, a 21-year-old Sehome High School graduate, has loved football and dancing since she was in kindergarten, so she said she can't help feeling all this is a dream.

She recently moved to Renton, where she's working two jobs as a waitress, and grew up in Bellingham. Her parents are Bellingham's Jaret Vosburgh, a Snohomish firefighter, and Bonny Ledray, a music teacher in the Bellingham School District. She has three siblings - twin sister Kayla, Sehome senior Austin and Sehome freshman Braden, both football players.

Question: Hannah, what was it like to hear the 12th Man set a world record for crowd noise?

Answer: That was the win against the 49ers, interrupted by thunderstorms. It was just crazy. The fans were so loud I couldn't even hear the thunder. As soon as I heard about the record (131.9 decibels), I felt so proud of the 12th Man - I really love those fans. We (the cheerleaders) really feed off the fans' energy. They keep us going.

Q: Did you lead cheers all through high school?

A: I was a Sehome cheerleader as a sophomore and junior. I learned so much from my coaches, Jodi West and Jenny Johnson. They really helped make possible my success. But as a senior, I realized how much I missed dancing, since I had been with Dance for Joy (a Bellingham dance school) for 14 years. I very much wanted to practice jazz and hip-hop dancing, so I went back to Dance for Joy. All this helped prepare me for Sea Gal tryouts in April and May.

Q: What convinced you to try out?

A: I have watched the Seahawks on TV with family members my entire life, but Seattle always seemed so far away. But one day I went to the Sea Gals' web site, and I absolutely became inspired. I decided to attend auditions in April, and there were 200 women there! They were all gorgeous. Everyone who is on the Sea Gals is required to audition each year, if she wants to return.

Q: Were your nervous?

A: Oh, I was very nervous at first, but I made some friends right away. I'm very outgoing. I did a freestyle routine in the first audition and I was called back. For the next audition, I learned a routine and then I sat for an interview. I thought that was fun. The final audition was live online, with about 70 women remaining.

That same night, they called my number when they announced the Sea Gal roster. It's 34 women, which I think is the maybe largest Sea Gals squad since the 1990s.

Q: Does it still seem like a dream?

A: It does, especially since at my first pro football game, I was on the sideline dancing and cheering. I still can't really put it all into words. My face was a constant smile, and I was just blown away with it all. I'll never forget the feeling of being on the field for the first time.

Q: What accounts for how you work the stadium?

A: We rotate in groups each quarter, so we get to see all the fans. I'm not the youngest Sea Gal - we have women 18 to 36.

Q: Do you get to meet the players?

A: The Seahawks and Sea Gals both practice in Renton, and sometimes players will walk by and say things like "Great Job! Keep it up!" But we sign contracts. We aren't allowed to date players while we are active Sea Gals, since we are officially considered co-workers. I have a boyfriend, Ryan Occhiogrosso from Ferndale, and he has been incredibly supportive. It helps me so much to have a boyfriend who is supportive of who I am, since he knew me long before I became a Sea Gal.

Q: Do people ever recognize you as a Sea Gal when you're working?

A: Once in a while they'll double glance. I acknowledge them with a thank you and a smile, but of course I'm working. People are so nice about it. But I don't tell people I'm a Sea Gal unless they bring it up.

Q: Are you like the pro athlete who says they'll have to tear the uniform off him before he leaves a sport?

A: Yes! I love being a Sea Gal so much, I feel I'll be back each year as long as I can. Eventually, I'd like to become a flight attendant and see other nations. I would love to travel.

Q: Since you don't perform at road games, would the Sea Gals go to the Super Bowl if the Seahawks do?

A: We sure would! Fingers crossed - go Seahawks!

NEXT SEAHAWKS GAME

The Seattle Seahawks host the Tennessee Titans at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, at CenturyLink Field. CBS will show the game on TV.

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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