By Sara Katherine Johnson
Each week, Sports Illustrated selects one cheerleader in the nation to shine the spotlight on during college football season, and the latest pick was Baylor’s own League City sophomore Casey Dervay.
“It’s a very big deal that she was selected,” said Rachel Levetzow, director of spirit and athletic tradition.
Levetzow said she has been at Baylor for six years and Casey is only the third Baylor student to be selected in that time.
Dervay is a songleader on the Baylor Dance Team and said she did not have any advance notice about her selection. She found out on the morning the photo ran and she thought it was a joke. That is, until she got a text message.
“I had a text from the photographer and then my phone started blowing up,” Dervay said.
She said she did not let herself look at the pictures until later at night because she was nervous.
The pictures that ran online came from a photo shoot that happened last year. The spirit squad members who traveled to the Fiesta Bowl had the opportunity to do a photo shoot with Bruce Yeung, a Sports Illustrated photographer who lives in Arizona.
“Sports Illustrated contacted Baylor, and then the photographer contacted Rachel, and they set it up,” Dervay said. “We woke up early, a limo took us to his studio and it was a brand new experience.”
Levetzow said it was hard to pick any one word to describe Dervay, but determined and dedicated were two she would pick if she had to.
“She never gives up or settles for anything less than her absolute best,” Levetzow said. “She’s always working to improve on herself over the day before.”
Levetzow said Dervay consistently works to be her best through her athletic career, which expands beyond her work as a songleader.
As a kid, she was in martial arts and became a black belt. She also spent her summers practicing synchronized swimming. In middle school she switched to dancing in the water, a form of synchronized swimming.
“All of those sports taught me about flexibility, precision and sharp movements,” Dervay said. “All of that works into dance.”
Once she started high school she joined the drill team. She used to go to local gyms to video record herself so that she could later analyze it and improve. Her junior year she was the junior lieutenant and her senior year she was the head captain.
“I feel very open and myself when I dance,” Dervay said. “It’s so fun to get energy from others you dance with.”
The spring of her senior year in high school, Dervay said she knew she wanted to go to a college with a dance program. Once she was offered a spot on Baylor’s team, she immediately accepted.
But as fun as songleading is for Dervay, she said it comes with its difficulties. Knowing all of the sideline sequences perfectly is a constant struggle, she said.
“Our captains will quickly call the sidelines when we are at games so we always have to be prepared,” Dervay said. “We have roughly 26 sidelines, all with different choreography, groups and visuals.”
When Dervay isn’t on the sidelines, she is active in her sorority Delta Delta Delta. She also lives in the Global Living and Learning Community, which has allowed her to practice Mandarin Chinese and Spanish with native speakers and other students studying the languages as well.
“I want to do something with a global perspective,” Dervay said. “I don’t know directly how I want to impact the world, but I want it to be internationally.”