When the Clemson Tigers take the field on Monday in the National Championship game against Alabama, Lori Cribb, clad in purple and orange, will be on the sideline cheering her team and school.
Cribb, a Georgetown High graduate, is a senior on Clemson’s dance team, known as the "Rally Cats." She’s been on the team since her freshman year, but this is the first time she’s been chosen to travel with the football team for postseason games.
“It’s been one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Cribb said about the opportunities she’s had as a Rally Cat -- there are 27 dancers on the squad this year.
She said team members are selected to travel for bowl games based on several factors including seniority and academic performance.
The Tigers and Crimson Tide will meet in Santa Clara, California, on Monday. The matchup will be the fourth consecutive year the elite programs have played in the College Football Playoffs. Last season, Clemson lost to Alabama in the national semifinal. The year before, the Tigers topped Bama in the National Championship game in Tampa, Florida – Cribb was at the game with her father, Lynwood. In 2016, Alabama topped Clemson in the National Championship.
Cribb said she’s “super excited” to see this year’s finale from the sidelines.
“Not many people can say they danced in the National Championship for Clemson,” she said.
Cribb and the rest of Rally Cats will take a charter flight to California Friday. The trip will be an upgrade from the 15-hour bus ride (the university covers travel expenses) they took to and from Arlington, Texas, where Clemson defeated Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Dec. 29 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
When she took the field before that game, Cribb said, she felt “very overwhelmed, very blessed and thankful for the opportunity.” The stadium holds 100,000 people, more than the 81,000 capacity of Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
At the Cotton Bowl, the Rally Cats used the dressing room of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and Cribb met with former Rally Cat Rachel Wyatt, currently a Cowboys cheerleader and a former Miss South Carolina. Cribb said she plans to tryout for the Atlanta Falcons cheer squad this spring.
The trip to California won’t be Cribb’s first as a Rally Cat. This past spring, she traveled with the group to San Diego, California, for the NCAA Tournament where Clemson’s men's basketball played first and second round games.
Cribb is majoring in biological sciences and is on track to graduate this spring. Eventually, she wants to be a nurse practitioner. She hopes to attend an accelerated program at the Medical University of South Carolina to earn her nursing degree.
A 2015 graduate of Georgetown High, Cribb said it was her lifelong dream to perform on the sidelines during Clemson home games. She’s been dancing since she was a toddler and is versed in multiple styles including jazz, ballet, tap and hip-hop. She did competitive dance throughout high school and said it taught her the importance of time management.
“Keeps me on a pretty tight schedule,” she said. "I feel like I can manage things a lot better."
Before her freshman year, Cribb earned a spot on the Rally Cats following a three-day tryout in the spring – she missed one day of tryouts to attend prom back home. And each year since, she’s had to re-earn a spot on the team. She said 80 to 90 girls tried out for the squad this past year.
Team members must be full-time students while also attending multiple practices, appearances and performances each week. And they cheer at all home football and basketball games. The Rally Cats also compete on the national stage. They finished sixth in the nation two years ago and will compete again this spring in Daytona Beach, Florida, at the NDA Collegiate National Championships.
But right now, Cribb is focused on Monday's National Championship.
"So pumped. So excited," she said.