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Super Bowl dancer redeems herself

The cheerleader’s story mirrors Trent Dilfer’s. They take to the same field Sunday: He plays football. She dances in the pre-game show.

[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Maggie Ciadella of New Port Richey rehearses a routine to the song Desert Rose on Wednesday night at the University of Tampa.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


HOLIDAY -- Maggie Ciadella is the Trent Dilfer of the Super Bowl XXXV pre-game show.

Much like Dilfer, the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens who was dumped by the Buccaneers after last season, Ciadella, 16, was cut from last year's River Ridge High School cheerleading team.

Sunday, she and Dilfer get redemption when they take the field for Super Bowl XXXV.

Dilfer will throw footballs.

Ciadella, now a junior at J.W. Mitchell High School, will dance.

She will be one of about 500 swimsuit and red dress-clad performers in Sunday's elaborate pre-game show.

In the mold of Dilfer, she isn't one to flaunt her success at her old coaches. She is just happy to have made it this far.

"This is big," she said. "I know I'm always going to remember this. The Super Bowl, that's huge."

About 500 performers were selected from 1,000 or so hopefuls during a one-day tryout in October at the University of Tampa. Ciadella was one of those chosen.

That isn't how it went when she tried out for the River Ridge squad at the end of her freshman year.

Ciadella, who has danced ballet since age 6, was absent the day final cuts were posted. She heard that she wasn't on the final roster, but her mom drove her to school to check for sure.

"It really was true," she said. "I was discouraged for a while."

But Ciadella, who has an unmistakable dancer's bounce in her stride, made this year's Mitchell cheerleading squad. Now this.

A typical week for the 16-year-old includes cheering at a basketball game or two, three days of cheerleading practice and more than 10 hours practicing at her Oldsmar dance school.

That routine is out this week in favor of more than 40 hours of rehearsals at the University of Tampa for the pre-game show. The group's first practice was Saturday.

Ciadella will learn a routine for beach-themed performances by PYT, the all-female teen group from North Tampa, and Grammy Award winning Sting, she said. The rock group Styx also will perform.

Some friends have asked Ciadella to wave, others have shrieked upon learning she might bump into 'N Sync, the teen heartthrob group performing at halftime, and the Backstreet Boys, another teenie-bopper group that will sing the national anthem.

Friends have all said that they'll be watching for Ciadella.

"I say to them, "I don't know if you're going to find me out of 500 people who look basically alike," Ciadella said.

The only downfall of performing is that she will miss the game. Right after the pre-game show, the dancers will be bused away from the stadium.

Oh well, Ciadella said.

"I don't understand football that great," she said. "I watch the game, but I'm not always that attentive. I watch the performing part."

And that's when her father usually heads for snack refills.

"I have to be honest," said Jim Ciadella, wearing a Buccaneers sweatshirt. "The pre-game I've never watched."

This year, he'll tune in before the game, he said.

He'll root for his daughter and Dilfer.

"Pretty much in that order," he said.

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