- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

Dance instructor Jamie Labrador bellows in an MCI Center auditorium: Cross on one; open to side on two; front on three and close on four.
Two hundred youngsters try to follow the instructions, all elbows and knees and energy.
"I think we need to try this again."
The dance steps eventually came together, along with passion and spirit, for 500 children from around the region who competed yesterday at the MCI Center for the 30 spots on the 2002 Washington Mystic Mayhem youth pep squad.
"It is such an important part of the Mystics experience," said Judy Holland, a senior vice president with the Mystics, who has run this event during its four-year existence. "I have no doubt that this year's squad will bring the same type of energy and spirit to the games that have delighted our fans for the past four years."
Children ages 8 to 18 are eligible to participate. Those selected will begin training in May and will attend all Mystic home games during the summer.
The round yesterday was the first. Fewer than 100 children were selected to return in a few weeks for the final tryout.
Dyani Gordon, spokeswoman for the Mystics, said the children would be judged more on spirit, energy and passion than on their dancing abilities. "We look for personality," she said. "It's so hard to judge."
Some children trying out, such as Autumn Campbell, 8, said they weren't nervous. Others shyly acknowledged they were.
One newcomer, Shajuanda Betrand, 14, of Temple Hills, practiced for hours the night before, said her mother, Barbara Betrand.
"She was nervous," she said. "She is a big Mystics fan. But she said she wouldn't be crushed if she didn't make it because she knows her dance experience isn't that great."
It was Bruce Sanderson's fourth time trying out. He made it the past two years. Organizers recalled how overjoyed the Alexandria high school defensive tackle was to be selected a few years ago after failing the first time. He called the experience "cool."
"You get to meet people from all different areas," he said. "Everyone should try out. It's really fun."
All Megan Atkinson, 10, of Upper Malboro, wants to do is dance: tap, jazz, ballet, it doesn't matter. She was on the squad last year.
"I have been dancing since I was 4," said the little girl with the gray T-shirt and a quick smile. "It's all I want to do except maybe be an [intensive care unit] nurse."
Allycia Joseph, 15, of Montgomery County, came out for the first time to support the Mystics. "My mom thinks I am always finding things to do," the Albert Einstein High School freshman said. "She thinks I am crazy. But I just love the Mystics."
There were a few tears as children dealt with stomachaches or lost water bottles. Parents were on a separate floor, waiting anxiously to find out how their children did.
"I don't know why they couldn't seat us downstairs so we could see," said Joseph Bryant of Northeast whose son, Joseph, 10, was trying out for the first time. "That would have done a lot to relax a lot of tension."
But worried parents were the last thing on the minds of the children two floors below.
"I just like the dancing," said Jeremiah Carter, 6. "I got to learn the moves."

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