By MIKE CHAIKEN
Former Teen Miss Bristol Karen Link once again will be dancing on the sidelines for the New England Patriots during the 2016-17 season.
And this time around, the cheerleader will have a new role with the squad. Captain.
Link, a Terryville resident and Holy Cross High School in Waterbury graduate, was tapped as the squad’s captain for her third season cheering for the Pats.
“Being named one of the captains of the team is one of my biggest accomplishments to date,” said Link, via email. “The team really relies on the captain to provide guidance, teach routines, and keep everyone informed and prepared. The role comes with a lot of responsibility but it’s something that I’m honored and excited to tackle.”
After two years of being on the squad, Link had no qualms about auditioning for another season with the Pats.
“Every year on the squad is different,” said Link. “Your rookie year everything you encounter is new, so it’s mostly about learning the ropes from the veterans and captains. Your second year you feel so much more comfortable and prepared for what to expect and how to balance work, life, and cheer.”
“I wanted to come back for my third year on the squad because now I have an opportunity to have a leadership position on the team and help the rookies to learn,” said Link. “Plus, so many of my closest friends are on the team so every practice, game day, and promotion is a blast.”
Link—a former Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen— said she likes being a Pats cheerleader because “on a personal level, dancing has been a part of my life since the age of 2. After I graduated college, I felt such a void and missed having the outlet, so dancing with the Patriots allows me to continue to do what I really love.”
“Separately,” said Link, “I have met so many awesome people and experienced some pretty incredible things while on this team. From cheer on the sidelines at the Super Bowl my rookie year, to riding in the Duck Boat Victory Parade, to bringing the Lombardi trophy out at the New Kids on the Block concert in Boston – you never know what’s next or who you’re going to meet.”
There is more to being on the squad then simply arriving on game day and dancing away, said Link. “Being on the team is a big commitment. We have multiple weekly practices, team workouts, and promotional appearances. As we move closer towards the season there’s even more preparation around game day. Fortunately, when you have some really awesome people as your ‘co-workers,’ it doesn’t ever really seem like ‘work.’”
Even though Link is a veteran with the cheerleaders, each year, all of the prospects—rookies and old hands—have to audition.
“Hundreds of girls audition for a spot on the team and that includes the current girls on the squad who have to re-audition,” said Link. “As nerve racking as it is, you have to bring the best version of yourself to auditions- from dancing, to your interview, to your public speaking.”
“I was just as nervous this year as I was the first time I tried out,” said Link. “But you need to stay focused and put in the work and it will pay off.”
And when she was picked, said Link, “Looking around the room at all the incredible talent that comes to auditions, it’s a huge honor to once again earn a position on the squad. It’s certainly not something that anybody on our team takes for granted. I’m really excited to see what’s in store for this year.”
For more information about the Patriots cheerleaders, go to Patriots.com