The People's Champ

For the second straight summer, Mountaineer fans all over the country will flock to newsstands to pick up a copy of Athlon magazine's National College Football Preview. But chances are the reasons for purchasing the annual preview have differed from last year to this year.

It was Athlon who ranked the Mountaineer football team #5 in the nation last summer, and jumpstarted the pre-season buzz that eventually led to high expectations for Rich Rodriguez's squad. While the Mountaineer football team didn't quite live up to the lofty goals, the Blue and Gold will yet again be featured in this summer's football preview. Only this time, it's a different participant in Mountaineer football Saturdays – cheerleader Andrea Bianchi.

Chances are that if you read our site, you're familiar with Andrea's name. What you probably don't know is how she came to win this year's Athlon Sideline Spirit contest.

"(Athlon) had come and taken a picture of me at a football game, and honestly I didn't know it had been taken," explained Andrea in a recent phone interview. "Then they got in touch with my coach and asked if they could put my picture (on the website) for the contest. My coach said we'd do it, and one Saturday it went up and we just started voting."

And voting…and voting…and voting. As it turned out, Mountaineer fans all over the country were voting for Andrea. A link to the poll where you could vote for Andrea was even tacked to the top of our message boards here on BlueGoldNews.com, and several readers voted multiple times throughout the fall.

"My friends would vote on every computer in the library, and in the computer labs everyday. There were people in Georgia, and California voting. It was so crazy how the West Virginia fans everywhere got out the word and voted," said the Harrisburg, Penn. native. "Some people would wait until their cookies were deleted and start voting again the next day."

When the votes were tallied and the results were in, Andrea won the competition running away. The runner-up was more than 22,000 votes behind the Mountaineer cheerleader. It should be noted that the second and third place finishers were from Miami and Virginia Tech.

By winning the contest, the cheerleading program was awarded $1000 by Athlon, which went to purchase new pants for the male cheerleaders, something that hadn't been done in more than ten years. Also, as a result of winning the contest, Andrea took part in her own personal photo shoot in Morgantown which is featured in the magazine.



Andrea Bianchi
Even though she won the contest and the photo shoot, Bianchi has been humbled by all of the attention she's received.

"I feel like there are so many people to thank because we won. I met so many people just because they voted," said Bianchi. "Even people back home have been so proud and so excited about it. I want to thank everybody everywhere who voted for me, and both I and the cheerleading team can't say thank you enough."

The best thing about winning the contest, she said, was the money given to the cheerleading program.

"It's so hard for us to fundraise," she admitted. "The guys got new pants, and they're clean, and I'm happy. It's hard for a guy to be a cheerleader, so it was nice to get them something."

After winning the contest and completing her time as a cheerleader, Andrea is ready for a new chapter in her life. She will graduate in December with a degree in accounting, and then head out to the real world.

"I'm just hoping to get a good job. I'll get to cheer at the homecoming football game every year, and it'll be cool to see more people doing what I got to do. It was such a cool experience, and I'll remember it forever."


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