The investment banker, the lumber salesman, the kindergarten teacher and the meteorologist all came out Saturday for the Baltimore Ravens' cheerleading tryouts for one reason: the right to bear pompoms.

Kristie Tapper of Stevensville — the mother of 1-year-old twins — was one of the roughly 250 men and women who turned out for the open tryouts on the basketball court of Merritt Downtown Athletic Club in Mount Vernon for one of the 60 coveted sideline spots.

Tapper and the other hopefuls practiced their eight-count dance steps while En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" played over the booming speakers. Lined up along the perimeter of the gym were dozens of fur-lined Ugg boots, water bottles, hand mirrors and Michael Kors and Coach bags.

Tapper came back for another chance to be on the squad after she left in her third Ravens' cheerleading season in 2006 to get married and start a family.

"I want to do something I enjoy for me," the 28-year-old said. To get back in shape for the pros, Tapper said she worked out four to five times a week, including running with her son and daughter in a stroller.

"I'm very nervous for tryouts. You have to give it your all," she said.

All Ravens cheerleaders must hold a full-time job, be a stay-at-home parent or be enrolled in a full slate of college courses.

James Schwille, a lumber salesman who went to Virginia Tech for wood science, was trying out for a fourth year on the squad.

"It's just so much fun," said Schwille, 33, of Parkville. "I'm on the field, 10 feet away from a football game. It's an escape from the real world."

He said he's used to the jokes ("Where's your skirt?"), but Schwille said not much beats the camaraderie with his fellow cheerleaders. And hanging out with dozens of beautiful women isn't bad either, he conceded.

"People think we're out there clapping and cheering," Schwille said. "We're out there tossing girls 30 feet in the air."

Erica Lawson of Prince George's County and Shanna Cooper of Rockville were two of the newbies.

Lawson said she loves the thrill of performing and thinks she's got what it takes to juggle the intense workout routines, her job at a local park and planning commission and her volunteer work.

Cooper said she always dreamed of reaching the pros growing up. Now a full-time online student at the University of Alabama and a restaurant promotion and events coordinator in Bethesda, Cooper said she wants to make it happen.

"It keeps me fit. It keeps me healthy and it keeps me happy," she said before springing up for the next routine.

About half of the hopefuls will make it back for the second round of cuts Sunday. The final 2012 squad will be determined by local celebrity judges March 17 at The Lyric Opera House. Tickets are $17. The event starts at 4 p.m.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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