Olivia (Ralston) McGarvey goes through her dance routine during a workout at the Colts complex on Thursday. (Staff photo by David Campbell/dcampbell@madisoncourier.com)
Olivia (Ralston) McGarvey goes through her dance routine during a workout at the Colts complex on Thursday. (Staff photo by David Campbell/dcampbell@madisoncourier.com)
Like the football players that she cheered for, Olivia (Ralston) McGarvey has always aspired to reach the NFL. Now, unlike a vast majority of those players, she will get a chance to perform in the big leagues.

McGarvey, the daughter of Jerry and Carol Ralston and a 2008 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School, is one of the newest members of the Indianapolis Colts' cheerleading squad. For somebody who has been a cheerleader and dancer nearly her entire life, it is truly a dream come true.

"I am very, very excited," said McGarvey. "I've always been a big fan of the Colts and I've always wanted to be a part of the team. I've always had that dream ever since I was a little girl."

The road to the Colts has not been an easy one. After a standout career cheering on the Madison Cubs, Olivia headed to Ball State University where she spent four years on the Cardinals' sidelines.

She graduated in 2012, and she moved to Indianapolis. Last September, she married former Ball State kicker Ian McGarvey.

After she moved to Indianapolis, Olivia decided to give her dream a shot. But trying out for the Colts wasn't as simple as just walking down to Lucas Oil Stadium and doing a few routines.

"When I decided to try out I spent a year preparing for it. I had no idea it would be as hard as it was," she said. "There were the routines, but you also had to be in shape. I had taken a year off after college and needed to get back into dancing shape.

"You also had to know your football. They don't want to you just going out and cheering," she added. "I spent the year studying the history of the team and you have to know the players. It was tough."

The auditions were even tougher. Several hundred showed up but only a dozen were going to be chosen. Olivia had to survive three rounds of routines, tests and fitness regiments before making the final cut in May.

It has been a whirlwind since that point. In between working out and learning routines, she has also been out in the community representing the Colts and even got to spend a week shooting the official swimsuit calendar.

"We do a lot of public speaking and visiting with groups. That might be my favorite part," Olivia said. "We're going to be working with the Down Syndrome foundation on a fundraiser. We have a camp for little girls. I just love getting out and meeting people."

Like their football-playing counterparts, the cheerleaders also have to be ready for the season. They are expected to workout on their own, but they also meet at the Colts training complex in northern Indianapolis to hone their skills.

The training sessions are not easy. The first hour is spent working out with wind sprints, push-ups and other strength exercising. Afterwards, the squad works on routines for the next two hours, all in an indoor facility with no air conditioning and the only breeze coming from open doors.

"It's extremely hard. It's not easy. I've never worked so hard," she said. "It's a long day, there's no AC, it's hot, you're tired. But I really love it."

All of the hard work will soon pay off. The Colts' first home preseason game is Aug. 16 against the New York Giants and the regular-season home opener is on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 15.

"I'm so excited. I can't wait for Aug. 16 to get here," she said. "I've had a chance to cheer in Lucas Oil before when I was at Ball State, but this going to be totally different. To get a chance to cheer on the Colts, in front of that crowd, in that atmosphere is just going to be excited. I can't wait."