INDIANAPOLIS –A new chapter of Colts Cheerleading was ushered in Friday night, but the selection process was no easy task this year.
The Hilbert Circle Theatre played host to 52 finalists on Friday with the showcase cutting that number down to 28 women, who now form the 2015 squad.
A talented group of rookies made a strong impression on the judges throughout the past week of auditions.
"I have never been more excited for a team," Colts Cheerleader Manager Kelly Tilley said after selecting the squad on Friday.
"I think the Colts (on the field) are going to do great this year and the Colts Cheerleaders are going to do awesome as well. I want to start practices tomorrow because it's just a great group of women that want to work hard.
This marks the third year that Tilley has been at the helm of the Colts Cheerleaders.
She called this audition process the hardest yet, because of two distinct characteristics.
First, was the immense talent brought in from the rookies and several former cheerleaders who decided to try out again.
Second, the tryout process was cut in half this year to just one week. Tilley called it a "grueling" week for the 52 ladies trying to make the cut.
Rookie Leslie Ann's beaming smile told everyone at Hilbert Theatre how her night ended.
The Indiana native heard her number '40' called by Tilley and thought she was dreaming.
"I am over the moon excited," Leslie Ann said. "I can't believe this is actually happening. All the sleepless nights, all the sore muscles, all the praying, it's all paid off.
"I'm probably going to wake up tomorrow and think, 'Am I really a Colts cheerleader? Yes, I am a Colts cheerleader."
Emcees for Friday night were Matt Hasselbeck and former Colts cheerleader Megan Meadors (an intermission appearance also came from long snapper Matt Overton).
Judges for the evening included Cynthia Grigson (wife of Colts GM Ryan Grigson), Vice Chair/Owner Kalen Irsay, Tina Pagano (wife of Chuck Pagano) and Sarah Hasselbeck (wife of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck).
Friday night's showcase began with the finalists being divided into groups of three for a choreographed dance lasting about 30 seconds each.
Next up was time for some individual creativity with each finalist performing a solo dance of her choice, for about 15-20 seconds.
The last look the judges got at the 52 finalists came with each girl in a swimsuit as their bios were read to the audience.
The highlight of the evening undoubtedly came when the cheer finalists performed with the Indiana Fierce All-Stars and Down Syndrome Indiana.
Friday's showcase was the culmination of a week long of activities that began last Saturday at open call tryouts.
A group of nearly 100 women was whittled down to 52 finalists.
Their past week consisted of a fitness test, interviews with a separate panel, a football test and then Friday's showcase.
After nearly an hour of deliberation between the judges on Friday night, Tilley read off the numbers for the 28 women who will make up the 2015 Colts Cheerleaders.
"The best moment is that new energy and new blood when you get back (stage) and you tell (the rookies)," Tilley said.
"There's tears and excitement and a, 'I can't believe I just achieved my dream of being a Colts cheerleader.'"
The 2015 Colts Cheerleaders Auditions were presented by Tyler Mason Salon and Spa, and supported in part by Curtain Call Dance Studio.