WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
At Hernando High,
participated in track
BY TONY CASTRO
The phrase coming full circle is most often associated to student/athletes through a series of developments that lead back to the original source, position, or situation or to a complete reversal of the original position.
That couldn’t be truer of Hernando High’s current first-year varsity cheerleading mentor Crystale Meagan Torres.
Torres graduated in 2011 from Hernando High after participating in cheerleading for four seasons – three at the varsity level – besides running the 100 meters and participating in the long jump and hurdles as a freshman in track and field.
Upon graduation from high school, while studying for her AA degree and working fulltime, she rolled the dice during a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders tryout and landed a spot on the squad for two seasons.
That life experience has served her well.
She’s currently juggling three jobs, including as Spring Hill cosmetologist, dance instructor and cheer coach for the Lady Leopards.
At 23, life is her oyster and don’t be surprised if she challenges herself in the future by attempting to land on the Miami Heat dance squad before venturing to Europe and seeing what life holds across the pond.
Crystale was born in New York City as the older of two daughters to Frank Torres and Madeline Carire.
She’s called the Sunshine State home for the past 19 years.
Her younger sister, Dayna, is also a varsity cheerleader at HHS.
The current 5-foot-8, 128-pounder began her dance career at 2½ years old.
She’s enjoyed performing in all types of dance including jazz, contemporary, hip hop and ballet.
Her athletic side began to blossom at Parrott Middle School.
She participated in volleyball as an outside hitter as a seventh- and eighth-grader.
In track and field, she participated as a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader in the 100 meters, long jump and hurdles.
Upon matriculating to the Bell Avenue campus at HHS, she lettered as a freshman in track before opting to stick with cheerleading.
After a junior varsity campaign as a frosh cheerleader, she rose to the varsity ranks for her final three seasons. She served as cheer captain as a senior.
With one keen eye on the bigger picture for four summers, she interned as a member of the famed Radio City Rockettes in New York City.
“Dance was a stress reliever for a long time. It was good for me physically,” touted the brunette with brown eyes. “Dance came natural. It was my niche. It served as my water; I always had to have it.
“My mom said even when I was small, I was always a dancer,” she grinned. “That’s why she put me into dance classes.”
In categorizing her dance steps, “When I do contemporary, that’s when I’m in my moment,” smiled Torres. “It’s my favorite. It pulls me in. It’s basically just the music and me.
“…Jazz reflects more personality, you can let your hair down so to speak. In hip hop, it brings out more of your aggressive nature.”
At HHS, Torres was no slouch in the classroom, graduating with a 3.55 grade point average.
Upon graduation from Brooksville, she commuted back and forth from Spring Hill attending Hillsborough Community College, where she earned her associates degree.
In between, she served as dance instructor as Serena’s Dance Palace on Spring Hill Drive. Being a choreographer is at the root of her existence.
Landing a spot with the Bucs
In high school, HHS had a competitive dance team, revealed Torres. During that time, the Buccaneers cheerleaders were gracious enough to give pointers locally.
“They were so beautiful. They had dance and cheerleader backgrounds,” admitted Torres with admiration. “They performed so fluidly. They were so nice and humble.”
A year after graduation from HHS, Torres “chickened out” at the last minute from trying out.
A year later, she journeyed into Raymond James Stadium for a tryout.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was prepared. I brought a head shot, my resume and jazz shoes. I thought I was ready,” she recalled. “I remember doing a freestyle dance for the judges to get a sense of my style and technique. If I was what they were looking for, I’d get a call back. I did.
“Next, they had a basic routine. You’d learn it basically on the spot and asked to recite it,” said Torres. “After that was two weeks of boot camp; that was pretty tough. I had never lifted weights. I did a lot of burpees. We had to run a lot. I had run track before, but I was never a long distance runner. Afterward, we met with a personal trainer.
“After that there was one last audition in front of a panel of judges. I showed everything I had,” recalled Torres. “Including doing splits, kicks and free style.”
“We were told that if you didn’t receive an email (on whether you made the squad), you’d know why,” shrugged Torres.
The weekend came and went without a peep.
While at work that following Monday she received the notification via text, “Congratulations we’re so proud to have you on the team.”
To this day, she recalls the message.
While working at the Campus Lodge on Bearss Ave. in Tampa, Torres couldn’t hold back her elation and screamed with joys of happiness.
Not knowing what was up, her co-workers rushed to her side.
“I was jumping up and down,” vividly recalled Torres. “I made it! It was the Bucs! I made it!”
Bucs: No walk in the park
As a first-year member in 2013, Torres’ life was complicated.
As she recalls, “It was a rollercoaster of emotions.”
“2013 was difficult because I was a fulltime student, still working fulltime and being a part of the (Bucs) organization,“ she said. “It was a lot.
“…With the Bucs, we’d have two nights of practice (Tuesdays and Thursdays), but we never knew what time we’d get out. It was crazy,” lamented Torres. “We learned everything for the season during the summer and then apply it whenever during the season. Besides school, besides work, besides practice, there were the grueling workouts with the personal trainer.”
Looking back, “I was so tired. It took all my strength to eat anything,” said Torres. “You have to love it, or else it’s not worth it.”
Her biggest conflict? Physically being the person they wanted her to be.
“I had never run 4-5 miles a day. You work so hard in an audition and then have to run with the personal trainer; it was tough,” said Torres. “We were all sisters by the end of the season.”
In 2014, there was no relief.
“Both seasons were completely different,” described Torres. “We had a new coach, so we had to re-audition for everything. My first coach inspired me. She made me want to work harder.
“…In my second year, it was a different style of dance, basically with a new team,” offered Torres. “The games are what made everything worth it. I went in not wanting money.”
The most gratifying moments were the simplest.
“Until I cheered for the Bucs, nobody ever asked for my autograph,” recalled Torres. “Seeing a little girl say to me, ‘I want to grow up and be just like you,’ really touched me to my core.”
Looking back at the overall picture, “What did I get out of it?” queried Torres. “I grew up. I grew into the woman I am today. The experience made me humble. It presented opportunities to open doors. The people I met along the way made everything I did worth it.”
These days: Staying busy
Life hasn’t slowed down since the Buccaneers.
Since February, Torres’ fulltime gig is as a cosmetologist/beauty advisor with Mirage Hair Salon in Spring Hill. She specializes in up-dos and makeup, for proms, homecoming and weddings.
She still serves as a choreographer at Serena’s twice a week while coaching the Lady Leopards varsity cheer squad.
Looking ahead, she’s mulling over the challenge of being part of the Miami Heat dance team.
“I like the rhythm. I like the spiciness in their routines,” grinned Torres. “I’ve always admired them. Another goal of mine is going to Europe and seeing what that has to offer.”
In the short term, she’s concentrating on getting her cheer squad on point for Friday nights.
“I want to make the program respected,” indicated Torres. “And be noticed. These girls work so hard. Some people don’t consider what we do a sport. My goal is focusing on the structure for football and basketball season and then begin building a team.”
Torres deflected any budding sibling rivalry with her sister Dayna.
“My sister strives to be better than me,” smiled Torres. “She jokes a lot about being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.”
Torres is in a good place in her life.
“The Buccaneers were a stepping stone. But there are more things I want to take off my bucket list,” identified Torres. “My motivation comes from myself. I want to be the highest in my journey. I want to be myself and incorporate all the little things to become a better person.”