20 Selected for 2012-2013 Thunder Girls Team

It was a long, grueling process, but ultimately, Thunder Dance Team Manager Paige Carter finalized her group.

With tryouts, boot camp, interviews, a massive cut-down to a final 38 candidates and then Thursday night’s final auditions at Riverwind Casino, Carter gathered enough information to feel comfortable selecting the 20 girls that will represent the Thunder this season. After interviews, tandem choreographed dances and individual free style dances, Carter handed roses to LaTeshia, Jessica, Kaci, Dominique, Kei, Kim, Hayle, Marysa, Bailey, Alexis, Jada, Ashley, Whitney, Shareka, Sarah, Kelsey, Michelle, Jenni, Marisa and Molly, who can now call themselves Thunder Girls.

“It was very, very nerve-racking, but I’m so excited to be a part of this experience,” Kim said. “I’m incredibly proud of myself because I’ve come such a long way not only dance-wise, but getting in shape and getting ready for this... I’m just really excited and really proud.”

Carter came into auditions wanting a squad of 18, but after seeing the large amount of talent at the tryouts, she couldn’t keep it to that small of a number. In her second season with the Thunder, Carter said that despite being in the industry for many years, this was the most difficult selection process she has ever faced.

“I could have easily taken 30,” Carter said. “That’s how talented these girls were… I’m so excited for the new team, but I’m upset for the girls I have to send home because this year.”

The decisions were made after an extended deliberation session by the panel of judges, which included Carter, Thunder Director of Events & Entertainment John Leach, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and Miss Oklahoma, among others. As each girls name was called, they received their rose, hugged Carter and joined their new teammates, barely holding in the joy until they finally burst into applause and excitement with one another. For the girls who made the squad, the hard work paid off.

“I feel like I worked as hard as I possibly could,” Jenni said. “I tried out last year and made it to the final round. I didn’t make the team, so that pushed me that much harder for this year and gave me the motivation that I could come back this year… It paid off, I’m finally on the team.”

The team is set, and that simply means that it is time for the Thunder Girls to get back to work full time. Carter will be bringing six of her girls with her to China to help represent the NBA this summer, and soon, it will be time for the squad to start preparing for the 2012-2013 season. After all, pre-season games begin October 10 and the regular season starts on November 1.

“It’s non-stop for us, these girls work really hard,” Carter said. “We don’t take a break.”