The Apache Belle freshmen have endured 12-hour days, traditions that had them going to class with their hair in a ponytail on top of their head and wearing red lipstick, and long, grueling practices during their first semester at Tyler Junior College. “I knew it was going to be hard work,” freshman Belle Natalie Vance said. “Some of us didn’t realize how hard it would be.”Apache Belle Camp opened on Aug. 10 as the girls moved into their new home on the fourth floor of the Ornelas Residential Complex. A normal day at Belle camp started around 8 a.m. with morning dance practice and finished around 8 p.m. with breaks for lunch and dinner. The freshmen were not ready for the long days.”Camp was hard and we were sore,” Vance said. “A lot of us were very sore.”In addition to grueling 12-hour days, this was the first time some of the freshmen were living away from their families.”You can’t go home, you can’t call your mom and tell her you want to come home,” freshman Belle Emma Schaaf said. “You’re in college now.”Long days of working together and being away from home has also helped this class of freshmen to bond and come together as a team.”All the freshmen are getting to know each other. We’re living together for the first time. Everyone is going through it together,” freshman Belle Kelly Poole said. “Camp is where all of us really bonded.”The start of the semester brought with it the start of football season. The freshmen got to put on the black and gold uniform of the Apache Belles for first time on Aug. 30 at Eagle Stadium in Lindale, Texas. Along with the nerves and excitement, they felt a sense of accomplishment.”When you’re sitting in the stands and people are taking pictures of you because you’re a Belle and then getting to perform [at halftime], it made everything we went through worth it,” Schaaf said.Although technically the first game of the football season was a home game, the freshmen did not get to march onto the field at Trinity Mother Frances Tyler Rose Stadium until Sept. 27. It was the first time they got to perform the ‘RIM’, the traditional entrance march for the Apache Belles before football games. “The ‘RIM’ is another tradition we got to be a part of,” Schaaf said. “We were connecting on another level with our sophomores.”The end of the football season brought about the end of halftime performances and made way for the fast approaching end of the semester.”It’s sad because it’s almost over,” Schaaf said. “Freshman year is the learning process, everything’s a surprise.”On Dec. 14 the fall semester at TJC will have ended and the TJC football season will have been long over, but the world-famous Apache Belles will have one more football game performance. The final halftime performance for this class of freshmen will take place at Texas Stadium in Irving. They will perform during the Dallas Cowboys game against the New York Giants.”I grew up in Plano and have always been a Cowboys fan,” Poole said. “I’m completely excited. I was blown away when [Christy Evans] told us.”With Texas Stadium closing its doors at the end of this football season to make way for the new stadium in Arlington, this will be the final group of freshmen to perform there.”It’s exciting. We’re making history,” Schaaf said.Now that the first semester is coming to a close, the freshmen start to look toward their final semester before they become sophomores. Spring semester is more about traditional dance for the Apache Belles and culminates with the annual Spring Show.The last thing that the freshmen will experience is their banquet at the end of spring semester.”It’s the last thing we do with the sophomores,” Vance said. “It will bring back memories from the whole semester.”

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