Cover Girl Stepper-ette world champ Kayleigh Begley makes SI cover

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 12:00 am

It happens all the time, really, but in case you missed it, last week’s Sports Illustrated cover featured a world champion.

Oh, and there was also Doug McDermott.

Kayleigh Begley was one of two Creighton University dance team members who appeared on the March 17 cover of the nation’s most celebrated sports periodical with the Bluejay basketball star McDermott. Together with Kelsey Saddoris, the trio recreated a classic cover from 1977 that featured the legendary Larry Bird in his college hoops days at Indiana State University and two cheerleaders giving the universal sign of raised index finger to lips, indicating both Bird’s and McDermott’s positions as secret weapons for their respective schools.

Another secret? This was far from Begley’s first pose in the limelight.

She’s been twirling baton for La Vista-based Sue’s Stepper-ettes since she was 4 years old and is a member of the Stepper-ettes’ two-time World Baton Twirling Championships title team, which earned international gold in 2009 and 2012.

She said the chance to be on the Sports Illustrated cover was humbling and hoped that her appearance would be representative of both her dance and twirling teams. And, like McDermott does, Begley clung to the notion of kinship that arises in the midst of great competition.

“It all happened so fast,” said Begley, a 19-year-old freshman at CU. “It was crazy. I would say that it was serious, but it wasn’t stressful. Doug, he was very humble through the whole thing. I love how he always gives credit to his teammates.

“For me, being on the cover has been kind of hard, too, because we’re a team, too, and I always want to thank my teammates. Every one of those ladies is lovely and like a sister. I don’t like taking a lot of credit. To me, the dance team really has been like family. In baton, those girls are like my sisters. Without a team, there’s not much we can get done.”

Begley said she and Saddoris discovered that SI “discovered” them through just a random look through the dance team’s website. She said the magazine knew they’d need a tall dancer and a short dancer. Editors selected the two teammates and informed the dance team moderator, Alynne Wize, of the choice.

Earlier this month, Wize told the women to be ready for a special assignment on March 5. That day, Saddoris and Begley met at Wize’s office. She led them to a patio outside the university’s library and broke the news, to much fanfare.

“I don’t really remember my initial reaction,” Begley said. “We both just started screaming and jumping up and down. From where we were standing, we could see people inside the library and I suppose they heard us.”

An hour later, the two were inside Creighton’s Old Gymnasium, in front of a tangled infrastructure of photography impedimenta.

“I went in to the shoot and said, ‘Well, I’ll be the shorter one,’” Begley said. “That got a pretty good laugh.”

And there was McDermott.

“Creighton’s a pretty small campus, so you get used to seeing a lot of people,” Begley said. “But he’s a senior and I’m a freshman, so I haven’t really seen him a lot. He’s just such a nice guy, like everyone says.”

As for some of the ancillary effects of SI notoriety?

McDermott put any notion of a jinx to rest with 35 points in the Jays’ opening round win against DePaul University in the Big East Conference Tournament.

The closest correlation for Begley was staving off the curse by boning up for her midterms.

“I’m still studying,” she said with a laugh. “I should be OK.”

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