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Hitting the (Marky-)Mark — Every year it hurts so much to say goodbye to friends, and this year we lose some precious legends, but the Wahl of heartache is lessened after meeting some of the Rock-ing new angelic sweethearts who, along with the top-notch, pumped-up returnees, will keep the Bruins at the top and the doubters at Bay

The UCLA Spirit torch was passed on yesterday, but believe me — It is still burning strong and bright.  Thanks to the high quality of the returning members, and to the incomparable Selection Committee panel of judges, the Bruin Cheerleader Program is in fantastic shape.  Not only has the attractiveness level been maintained, but the NICENESS FACTOR has apparently also been kept intact.

On Saturday evening in Pauley Pavilion, the UCLA Spirit Squad held their annual Fundraising Reception, and the Unveiling of Vehling’s Darlings for the year to come.  Not only did we get to see most of the newcomers perform — in the iconic uniforms — for the first time, but we also got to meet and greet them.  I admit that I didn’t converse with all of them, but the ones with whom I did interact (including Paulina and another girl with a beautiful and unique name I don’t want to misspell) were all of the high caliber that we have come to expect.  Of course they were nice — it was, after all, a fundraiser — but I insist that they were being sincere, as the friendliness came so naturally to them.  And also:  You can’t “fake” intelligence, which was apparent everywhere you looked.

It’s a good thing that I was so impressed, because the night brought a lot of sadness too, as this was the last time I will ever see Kate, Lizzi, Nicolette, Tiana, Maya, Natasha, Erica, and Dana in uniform, unless they choose to grace the sidelines at a future homecoming with a uniformed appearance.   Melissa and Sarah were also there in a swan song appearance, but in beautiful dresses instead of uniforms (perhaps because they have already graduated?).  And I didn’t see Kirsten or Kali, but I will miss them too, dearly.

But just when I’m about to tear up, I meet someone new, like the YELL CREW’s Karen, who reminds me that 2013-14 will bring plenty of warmth and joy.  And speaking of warmth, I’d like to send out a special thanks to Mollie AND HER TEAM, especially Nicole, Sara (sp?), and Kyle, who all went out of their way to make me feel like a part of the family on Saturday.

The reception itself included speeches by Head Fundraiser James Washington, Defensive Coordinator Lou Spanos, Tyus “T-Love” Edney, and Brett Hundley, and appearances by Jordan Adams and Tony Parker.  Hors d’ oeuvres included bacon-wrapped scallops, macaroni & cheese fritters, and shrimp & mango cocktails, and there was an open bar with wine, vodka and a very-popular basil-infused lemonade (or something of the sort).  It was all high-quality, as is everything that Mollie does.

As for the opportunity drawings and silent auctions, prizes ran the gamut, ranging from a basketball signed by legendary Bruin Coach John Wooden, to Football tickets, a chance to lead an 8-clap at Pauley, appearances by the cheerleaders at your tailgate party, mani-pedi’s, dinners, hotel rooms, a Paris Vacation, and tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.  And, YES, they once again offered a chance to be a judge at next year’s auditions.  And yes, I won.  Not only will I once again be a judge for the Dance Team auditions, but I will also get to invite a friend to also be a judge for those auditions.  I asked if I could just get TWO votes for myself, but that idea was nixed, so I will have to find someone who I trust to take it as seriously as I do.  On top of that, I also won the right to judge the Cheer Squad auditions.  And now that I know how it all works, I know my votes will count equally with all the other judges — This is not just an honorary position.  And as I wrote last month, I LOVE that I can actaully have a say in who gets the honor of carrying on the ELITE tradition of excellence that IS the UCLA Spirit Squad.

I have 44 photos from the event to share today.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the list of names or official photos of the newcomers.  Since I don’t want to mislabel anyone, I am going to refrain from captioning them until I am SURE of who is who.  Please click on the pics to enlarge them, especially the horizontal ones.