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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Highlands Grad makes Ben-Gal Squad Again

Reynolds Living Out Childhood Dream

Steve France Photo. Highlands graduate Samantha Reynolds dances at a game last season for the Cincinnati Bengals Dance Team called the Ben-Gals. Reynolds just made the team for the second season.
Samantha Reynolds has been dancing since the age of 3.

Reynolds danced on the Highlands dance team for all four years of high school then danced for Northern Kentucky University's dance team her three years in college. Reynolds wanted to keep dancing and stay in shape after college so the 22-year-old 2013 Highlands graduate tried out for the Ben-Gals, the cheerleading squad of the Cincinnati Bengals. 

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Reynolds made the teams as a rookie for the 2016 season. She just tried out again and will be back on the sidelines again this fall.

"Aside from being talented, educated and incredibly beautiful, she is kind, grateful and the perfecte teammate," said Charlotte Simons, Ben-Gals Director of Cheerleaders. "Samantha Reynolds is such a great young lady who respects and appreciates the coaches and her team."

Reynolds first stepped onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12 this past year when the Bengals played the Minnesota Vikings. Reynolds said the girls have to try out to be on the field for each pre-season, regular season and playoff game. She saw the field for both home pre-season and all eight regular season games in 2016.

"That by far had to be the most exhilarating experience of my life," Reynolds said of the first game performance. "To me, that was the largest-scale performance that I'd ever done. The crowd is amazing. They get so excited. Everyone is just so hyped to get the season started. This is something I'd dreamed about since I was little. To finally be there, I thought it had sunk in until I stepped on the field, then I realized it hadn't because I didn't feel like I had truly made it until the moment where I took the field. It was a big deal in and of itself that I had made it onto the field. That moment for me is something I will always remember. Every single time I stepped onto the field, it was just as exciting for me. I never felt like I lost that thrill. There was never a moment where it just kind of became mundane."

Reynolds traveled outside the country with the team last year. The team did its calendar shoot in Mexico and traveled to London (England) on Oct. 30 to cheer on the squad. But she said her teammates were the biggest surprise of the season.

"I'll be the first to say that when I started the team, I had no idea how inspiring the other team members would be," Reynolds said. "The women on the team are absolutely incredible. We have pretty much every career represented on the team. Every member on the team has a family they are proud of. They have goals. They're successful and driven. They're the nicest people. Being the youngest on the team, I was able to pick and choose the qualities of my teammates that I wanted to instill in myself as I got older. That was one of the biggest rewards for me."

Reynolds had served as a captain of Northern Kentucky University's dance team her second and third years of school. She had to adjust to a number of changes at the pro level.

"In college, you're focused more on the competitive level and the dance abilities. You're still in the process of getting the skills down," Reynolds said. "You're at your peak as far as technical abilities. But then by the time you get to the pro level, they expect that you have all that put together. We have to have full glamour, be poised and have a full-time job or be a full-time student and all that goes into it. You can't just come in and be a good dancer. You just have to be a professional all-around."

Reynolds said dancing for the Ben-Gals requires a big time commitment. But it works out well with her teaching schedule. Reynolds teaches Reading and Math Intervention at Woodfill Elementary. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Education from NKU and will start working on her Master's Degree from NKU this summer.

"They're more accommodating with our schedules because they want us to be a more well-rounded woman and not just make NFL cheerleading our lives," Reynolds said. "As far as community service events and all the things we do in the community, we all sign up as they are presented to us. It's worked our for me so far. It's really demanding. But it's so worth it. When you love it that much, it doesn't feel like work anymore."

The Bengals played some games in the cold late in the season. But that did not phase Reynolds. She said the games early in the season are harder to get through. The field index was 120 degrees when she stepped onto the field for the first pre-season Bengals game last August.

"Every time play stops, we're dancing. You're moving so much," Reynolds said. "There were games where the snow was coming down and we were pouring sweat so you really don't feel cold. You're so focused on the game. You're hoping for playoffs. The hype is just so high that the cold didn't bother me at all."

Like many professional cheerleading squads, the Ben-Gals are not allowed to socialize with the players. The exception is fully-sanctioned appearances.

"We're polite and we support them 100 percent," Reynolds said. "If we're at the stadium together, we'll be cordial and wish them luck on game days. We take the mentality that we each have a job to do and that's what we're there to do."

Reynolds served as the Junior Varsity dance coach this year for Highlands. She'll move to the Middle School level this year.

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