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SUPER BOWL LVI

Schererville resident gets opportunity of lifetime to cheer on Bengals at Super Bowl

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Renn Arvanitis loves three things: her family, dance and football. She'll combine all three on Sunday as she stands on the Cincinnati Bengals sideline for Super Bowl LVI, but her lifelong dream was almost shattered long before the Bengals drafted star QB Joe Burrow.

Arvanitis, 24, had a partial tear of a tendon near the arch of her foot six months before her tryout for the Ben-Gals, the Bengals' cheerleaders.

“When I got the news a few weeks later that it was torn it was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ you could see your dreams crumbling right before you," she said. "I don’t know if I’m going to be able to recover and do this. I talked to my doctor and he was like, you know, this is a very hard tendon to rip, and it wasn’t fully torn yet.”

Fortunately, her doctor had done a number of procedures on dancers before, and she was fully healthy before her tryouts in 2019.

Dance has been a lifelong journey that the Schererville native claims she was born into.

“My mom was always a dancer when she was younger," Arvanitis said of her mother, Miss Robin. "She danced her entire life and went on to become a teacher."

But having a teacher for life was a huge benefit as she prepared for a lifelong goal. She skipped cheering at Lake Central and did one year of dance before graduating from Purdue Northwest in 2019.

“I’m so blessed because she has so much knowledge. Even going through the tryout process if there were things (I questioned), it’s like having a best friend right there, and you know she’ll be honest," Arvanitis said. "I feel so lucky because she had so much dance training that I knew where I needed to go to train to get the best quality of training.”

She tried out during her final year of college and found out she made the team the same weekend as graduation. She trained at Patti's All-American in Dyer, where she now coaches.

“It was the coolest thing because I was in the studio I had trained in my entire life with (my mom) who had been my teacher my entire life,” she said.

Her career started when she was a Raiders cheerleader in Pop Warner. Now she claims her family are diehard Bengals fans for life.

Since making the team, Arvanitis has ventured twice a week for practice to Cincinnati, a four-hour drive one way. She loads up on Spotify playlists and true crime podcasts to pass the time, but it's priceless once she gets there.

“It’s one of those situations where every day I walk into the stadium, I just can’t believe that I get to live this life," she said. "I step onto the field and I’m like, ‘How did I get so lucky that I get to do this?’”

Some of her favorite things have nothing to do with the games. They have weekend appearances throughout the year where they attend in uniform, whether it's a food drive, kids camp or something else.

“I don’t think I realize how lucky I am to get to do that until you’re in that position and you realize, ‘Wow, I get to help people and inspire people,’" Arvanitis said. "I remember standing there when I was a kid, and I’d look at that cheerleader like a Disney princess and now I get to be that now.”

The cheerleaders are a team of their own with a roster of 30. Arvanitis is one of several who makes a long commute to fulfill her dream.

“The sisterhood is so amazing. The women on the team just inspire me every day," she said. "Whenever you’re feeling down, someone will text and say, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ Different inspiring things or motivational things. Everybody inspires me to be so great every day because I’m so lucky to be surrounded by so many talented people in their own ways.”

Arvanitis said she's become a celebrity of sorts and that neighbors, friends and strangers have vowed their Bengals support to her. The Cinderella story helps, winning their first playoff game since 1991 and doing one better, winning each road game to reach the Super Bowl.

“When we finally got that last field goal my dad was screaming, ‘You’re going to the Super Bowl,’ in his football voice," she said of her father, Tim. "I was crying. It was the greatest moment of my life. I’ll probably have another greatest moment when I go to the Super Bowl.”

The week started in Cincinnati with a pep rally at the Bengals' stadium. There have been other appearances since flying out to Los Angeles, including on Good Morning America.

"It’s like a big party in Cincinnati," she said. "The energy right now is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life."

Sunday may top it as her dream continues.

“If you are planning on going for a dream, go for it," Arvanitis said. "A few years ago, I would’ve never expected myself to experience this or do these things.”

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Night and Sports Editor

Aaron is a passionate sports fan who grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area. He has lived across the Midwest and enjoys traveling. He is passionate about Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder his brother has. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.

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