The night after the New Year marked our departure to Glendale, Ariz., where we hoped the Buckeyes would have better luck in the 2009 bowl outcome. With little or no sleep, at 2:45 a.m. on the 2nd of January, my team met at French Field House with the band, football interns and other university administrators in preparation for the trip. We all loaded buses and headed to the airport.
At 5 a.m. we were in flight, attempting to get some sleep, though it was nearly impossible. Finally, almost four hours later we landed in Phoenix. When we got off the plane it was just about 7 a.m., and the weather was not as warm as I thought it would be, but definitely warmer than Ohio, so I wasn’t complaining. When we arrived at our hotel we were pretty much all ready to go back to sleep, luckily our rooms were ready and so we did just that.
After we were well rested and fed, we went on a hike up Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale. Most of us had never been on a hike so we were pretty wound up. We started up the mountain leisurely walking, thinking it would be like this the entire time, but oh how we were wrong. By the end we were rock climbing, and despite the fact that we get tossed in the air daily, the height made about three girls cry! But, surprisingly everyone made it to the top. It took about two hours (it was a pretty long trail) and the sight was breathtaking and so peaceful. We took a ton of pictures and relaxed for a little while until we finally decided to head back down. The way down was a little worse I think, it was a lot more slippery probably because we did not have the proper equipment, but who knows. Everyone took at least one spill. It was a lot quicker too; it only took about 45 minutes!
As you can imagine, by the time we reached the bottom we were pretty hot and thirsty! The weather finally felt like we were in a desert, so we got back, took a quick dip in the pool then got ready for dinner.
We walked to a Mexican restaurant called the Pink Taco where all 22 of us filled a long table. Even though it took awhile it was pretty good and a lot of fun with everyone there. This was the only day we really got a good amount of free time because Phoenix being Ohio State’s home away from home, a lot of events preceded the game.
The next day we woke up and headed right to the Fiesta Bowl parade. The parade included a lot of tuneful marching bands, vibrant floats, cheer and dance teams and, of course, clowns. Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart, was the grand marshal and 188 different units were involved making it one of Arizona’s biggest annual events. Thousands of people attended the parade, most of which were Buckeye fans. The Grove City High School Marching Band even made the trip.
After the long and hot parade we were on our way to the Fiesta Bowl kick-off bash with the marching band. The pep rally filled a few blocks of Glendale, and the streets were decked out in scarlet and gray and orange and white, though Buckeye fans definitely out numbered them Horns. The marching band played the classic slue of songs to get everyone geared up for the big game.
The last function of the day was the battle of the bands, Buckeyes vs. Longhorns. This was the first time we met up with the Texas band and cheerleaders. The friendly rivalry between the two teams made the event a lot of fun. It was awesome to see these two very traditional schools side by side playing there ever-popular school songs! I would have to note though, O-H-I-O looks better spelled with arms than T-E-X-A-S does. Anyways, it was a really exciting event that once again foreshadowed the Fiesta Bowl.
The next day we got up early to find out it was raining, typical of our luck. But, fortunately we were inside for our community service event. It was at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in downtown Phoenix where a lot of fans pitched in to help feed hundreds of households around the area. Our job was to pack grapefruit, but others were filling boxes full of food getting them ready to ship off. The impact this event has is quite significant and it was a nice change of pace to see, that for a little while, the trip wasn’t just about football.
Next we went to the Buckeye Bash where thousands of Ohio State fan filled a large grassy area in Tempe. The Bash featured President Gordon Gee, Jim Tressel, Gene Smith, Archie Griffin and the captains of the football team, and of course the marching band and us to add a little spirit to the show. Regardless of the weather, Buckeye fans were still out in full force. Later, we headed to Acme Bar and Grille where a Buckeye Block Party was taking place. We did a couple of cheers, took some pictures and got dinner. When we were finally done for the day, we were extremely exhausted and knew that the following day was going to be the last of the hectic days. Though we were eager for the game, we needed to rest.
Jan. 5: Game Day! We got on the buses nice and early to begin our last day. It was game day. We left our hotel and went to Fairmount Princess for the Developmental Brunch.
This is where the football team stayed; it is breathtakingly indescribable, but definitely a place to honeymoon! Anyways, at the brunch we got to meet and greet the guests, some of them we had known from previous trips. Once the program got started we introduced President Gordon Gee. He of course rattled off his hilarious top 10 list, which had the crowd rolling; next Gene Smith introduced coach Jim Tressel. He sounded very confident in the team and the work they had put in. He also really put some pressure on the fans to give it all they had in the cheering section. With everyone anxiously talking about the game, it was already time to head to the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Right away we went to a couple corporate sponsored events and performed a few of our traditional cheers. Then we went to the World’s Biggest Tailgate Party with the marching band. They were pretty much right on with the event name, it was truly the most people in an area I have ever seen tailgating. Texas and Ohio State fans were bunched together just anticipating kick-off!
With only an hour or two until game time, we finally made our way inside the stadium. We fixed ourselves up and headed out on to the field. It was pretty sad to think that this was the last football game for most of us, so before the game we talked and laughed about all the other things leading up to this game that we had experienced together. The list is pretty long might I add, but as we were reminiscing, the stadium began to fill. Our faithful Buckeye fans were, without a doubt, representing with numbers. In seconds it hit us, our team was about to play the last game of the season, hoping to prove themselves on this national stage. As kick-off inched closer the excitement started to stir. And like every other game we were lined up with our flags, ready to run the team on while trying not to get run over!
Off we were the flags raised high as the Buckeyes entered the field. The certainty among the players was relevant and the belief and loyalty was obvious in our fans. The game began and the Buckeyes kept their confidence high as they played an outstanding first half. The defense could not have done a better job though Ohio State was only up 6-3 at the half.
The second half was an emotional rollercoaster. First the Longhorns seemed to have the momentum as they took a 17-6 lead late. But, Buckeye fans continued to cheer and the team kept fighting and with a little over two minutes left, Ohio State scored, putting us ahead 21-17! However, there was too much time on the clock and the Longhorns were able to drive down the field and score with only 16 seconds left.
The game ended 24-21 in Texas’ favor. It was an epic battle between two traditional powerhouses. And although they weren’t able to come out on top, it was a game that makes me extremely proud to be cheering for this team and school.
The next day we left the warm weather and were headed back to the snow and freezing rain. And I really got to thinking on the plane, throughout this year I would have thought that after the football chapter of my last year, there wouldn’t be much to look forward to for the reminder of the season. But with the Universal Cheerleading Association College Nationals right around the corner and both basketball teams off to a great start, I realized that the fun is just beginning.