The chills still haven’t faded for Alyssa Brochu. Chances are, they never will.

Not when you consider where the Augusta native and Cony High School graduate was on the evening of Dec. 10. Brochu is in her senior year as a cheerleader at the United States Military Academy — a “Rabble Rouser,” the Army calls them — and she was on the sidelines at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium when the final seconds of the Army football team’s 21-17 victory over Navy ticked away.

It was the Black Knights’ first win over their brothers in arms and archrivals in 15 years, and they celebrated like it. Jubilant cadets poured out of the stands, forming a mob scene on the field with triumphant players and coaches.

And Brochu got to be one of them, in the middle of it all.

“That day was probably one of the best days I’ve had at West Point,” Brochu said. “It’s still so surreal, it doesn’t seem like it actually happened, just because it’s been so long since we’ve had a victory over Navy.”

It was a rare moment of freewheeling euphoria at an institute where everything is buttoned down and strictly structured. Time is regimented. Workloads are heavy. Fitness is expected, uniforms are mandatory and opportunities to leave the confines of West Point are scarce.

It’s even tougher for an athlete. And Brochu loves every tightly-arranged minute of it.

“It’s very demanding. Your time is normally made up for you, and you don’t have much leeway with it,” she said. “(But) I thrive in situations like that. If I have a lot of down time I tend not to do as much, but if I’m pressed for time I get a lot more things done. That’s definitely been beneficial for me.”

It’s one of the aspects that drew her to the Army in the first place. The daughter of a Marine, Brochu’s interest in the forces increased during her junior year at Cony, and she went through the Army’s exhaustive application process, which includes interviews, essays and a formal approval from a congressman. She was accepted into the Army’s preparatory school, and performed well enough for a year to join the academy as a cadet for the summer of 2013.

“I knew it would be challenging academically and it would help set me up for success later on in life,” she said. “And I’ve always really liked helping people, so I knew I could do that through the military as well. That’s kind of where my passion for it came.”

Still, she missed sports. Cheerleading was one of Brochu’s three sports at Cony, and after participating on the prep school team, she tried out for the Army’s varsity team and made the roster.

“I was very, very nervous because I was like ‘This is my chance to make the team, I can be a college cheerleader, something I’ve wanted to do my whole life,’ ” she said. “But there were a lot of friends that I made at prep school that tried out as well, so that made it a lot less nerve-wracking because I saw a lot of familiar faces.”

By making the team, however, Brochu was signing on for a commitment that would test anyone’s dedication. Being a college athlete is difficult, but at the Army, it’s brutal. Morning lifts begin at 5:30 a.m. and go for an hour. Then it’s time for class, with afternoon practices beginning at 3 p.m. and going for up to three hours. Afterward it’s time for dinner before four to five hours of homework, making hours of rest precious commodities.

“There were times when I thought ‘Oh my God, I am not going to sleep tonight,’ ” Brochu said.

The game day experiences, however, make up for it. The social aspect of cheerleading is as significant as the athletic one, and Brochu and her teammates are as expected to engage and interact with the crowd as they are to nail their routines. And fans let the ones who do it well know it.

“All the little kids will come up to you and ask you to take pictures with them, or they’ll want to do cheers with you or lead cheers with you or do little stunts and stuff,” she said. “You’re a role model to so many little children that no matter where you go, everyone’s always asking you ‘Can we take your picture?’ ‘Oh, we have your picture at our house,’ and asking you to sign autographs and stuff.”

That’s part of the draw to it. The other is nights like that one in December. Attendance at the Army-Navy game — as is the case with all Army home football games — is mandatory, and the thousands of cadets in attendance began to grow louder and louder as Army stayed close with the 25th-ranked Midshipmen, pursuing a victory that was long overdue.

With six minutes to go, the Black Knights took the lead when Ahmad Bradshaw ran in from 9 yards out. Army cheerleaders spend the football games on the move, going back and forth between areas of the stadium, but in the closing minutes with victory at hand, Brochu got to soak in the moment.

“The whole thing was a blur just because it went by so quickly … but I remember standing on the sideline and watching the clock run down and seeing all the cadets ready to jump over the side of the barriers from the stands,” she said. “People were freaking out.”

The game ended with a kneeldown, and it was bedlam as cadets finally got to celebrate together.

“People were crying because they were so happy, people were screaming,” she said. “Everyone was so happy, and then to run onto the field with the entire team and the entire corps of cadets once the clock had run out, that was probably the coolest thing I’ve done here.”

And part of the reminder that, for all the homework, practices, late hours and early rises, there’s a reason she does this.

“There are many nights where you don’t sleep because you get back and it’s now 8 p.m. and you’re like ‘Well, I now have six hours of homework I have to do,’ ” she said. “But I think for me, the biggest part is that seeing the people’s smiles and seeing the joy we bring to people makes it all worth it. They’re so happy to see you when we do come around, and it makes you realize that what you did is worth it.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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