Special Reports

A day in the life of Chrissy Popadics

7 a.m.: Heading to class

I meet Chrissy in the business building at BSU on one of those cold, snowy February mornings, before the sun comes up and before campus has really come to life.

"Omigosh, it's early," says Chrissy as she heads to the coffee cart for a sugar-free caramel latte. She's been up studying for a couple of hours after staying up late studying with Ian the night before for an accounting test she's about to take, the first of the semester.

"I don't really feel ready, but who knows?" says Chrissy.

She heads into class and confers with a classmate for the last few minutes before her teacher arrives and passes out the dreaded exam.

In less than a half hour, Chrissy emerges from the room, giving a thumb's up sign.

"Yay, I can enjoy my day now," she says, sitting down on a bench to take advantage of having a little extra time between classes (business communications is next, followed by marketing).

She talks a little about her wedding plans:

Down the hall, BSU football player David Shields bends to take a drink from the water fountain.

"That's one of Ian's groomsmen," explains Chrissy. Shields come over and the two commiserate about getting up early and the respective tests and quizzes they have to face during the day.

Then it's time for the next class.

11:30 a.m.: Cheerleading

By late morning, Chrissy is in her blue shorts and orange tank top working out with the rest of the BSU cheerleading squad.

On the day she invites us along, practice is a little more relaxed than usual since the squad just returned from nationals with a second place honor.

Chrissy is working on a new stunt that requires a group of three cheerleaders boost her up into what looks like a precarious position.

She steadies herself, then stretches her leg sky high and beams that smile of hers.

By this point, everyone in the country knows that Chrissy is a cheerleader.

We've seen her, on television, in her orange cheerleading skirt, a white ribbon in her hair, smiling that smile of hers while Ian proposes.

What we haven't seen is all the work that goes into making the cheers and the complicated dance sections, lifts and flying stunts look so effortless.

Cheerleading is almost a full time job in itself, with daily two-hour practices, plus games (including football, men's and women's basketball, soccer and volleyball), plus cheerleading competitions.

That all adds up to 10 hours a week (minimum) of practice and 5 to 20 hours of performance (a football game by itself sometimes takes 9 hours including all the preparation work).

As the team captain, and the team's only senior, she in charge of helping direct the squad, leading practices and calling stunts during performances.

(Many girls burn out after a year or two on the squad because it's so time consuming).

And as the squad's best flyer she sometimes make those calls while she's in the air in a Double Full Basket Toss or a X Full Basket Toss (that's cheerleading speak for really, really hard moves that involve being tossed high in the air and flipping).

"She's got a lot of energy," says assistant cheerleading coach Jonathan Wood. "That motivates the other people on the team.

"She's small, but she has a lot of muscle. If you have her flex, she's pretty ripped."

1:30 p.m.: Time to hang out (or work out)

Wedding preparations get made in the margins of Chrissy's life: In between classes, in between cheer practices, in between working out and appearing with Ian at school assemblies.

But sometimes those preparations get elevated, especially when it comes to making sure the engagement ring is sized properly in time for Valentines Day.

Having the ring for the big holiday of love was a must for Chrissy, so she and Ian made time on the day before Valentines to drive to Ameri Star Diamonds in Star where Ian designed and purchased the ring.

Chrissy invited us along.

The couple was tipped off to the jewelry store by another cheerleader who was happy with her ring from the small, local shop.

"I forgot what it looks like," says Chrissy as Sarah Stapp pulls out the freshly shined rock. Then, turning to Ian, "Hey, you have to put it on my finger.

Then, "What do you think?" Chrissy asks Ian.

"It looks good," he answers.

"I missed it," she says, of the princess cut diamond surrounded by bezzle set diamonds on the side of the crown and channel set diamonds in the band.

Total weight: 2.02 karats.

2 p.m. Motivating young people

Sometimes spending the afternoon with Ian means working a junior high school assembly.

Chrissy's younger brother John is co-student body president at the school and he and the student council invited the couple to judge a spirit competition between the classes.

"The students are very excited when Ian and Chrissy are on campus," said Lowell Scott principal Joe Yochum.

That's a bit of an understatement. The first time Ian and Chrissy showed up at a one of her brother's games (post-Fiesta bowl), the couple was surrounded by fans.

Ian spent as much time signing students cell phones as actually watching the game.

The excitement hadn't died down in late February when Chrissy and Ian appeared again.

While they waited for their surprise introduction outside the gym, a group of middle school girls walked by, did a double take, then started giggling and screaming.

Yochum wasn't immune to Chrissy-and-Ian mania. Before the couple faced the screaming hoards of middle school students, he sheepishly asked Ian for his autograph for Yochum's young daughter.

Ian, acting the nice guy that everyone agrees he is, readily complied.

3 p.m.: More cheerleading, this time with Borah High School girls

While many BSU cheerleaders work while going to school, only Chrissy works two jobs.

In addition to serving at the Texas Roadhouse (we'll get to that later), Chrissy also coaches the Borah High School cheerleading squad.

"For somebody as small as Chrissy, she cracks a pretty good whip," said Borah cheer advisor Kay Tiemann.

Chrissy is only a few years older than the girls and shorter and more compact than most.

But when she tells them to "skip" to warm up their calf muscles, they do as they're told.

When she warns them "no giggling" and to return to their floor exercises after a couple of girls stop their workout, they quickly focus again.

They listen intently as she tells a group working on a lift to "spin her harder."

By the end of practice (and after a few close catches), the move works and gets a "good job" from Chrissy.

"She's funny, she's kind, she can laugh at us and make us laugh," said Laurie Byrne, 16.

"She's just a kid at heart," said Teimann.

That sense of humor, the constant energy and upbeat attitude are necessary in the grueling world of cheerleading.

Tiemann echoes the words of Chrissy's BSU cheerleading coach: "I don't think people realize how much time goes into cheerleading."

The Borah practice we attend is in the afternoon. Sometimes it's at 6 a.m., so Chrissy can squeeze it in before school.

Sometimes the team practices on Saturday.

In the summer, the girls practice even more.

And remember, this is in addition to the cheering Chrissy has been doing for BSU for four years.

4:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.: It's Texas Road House time

On nights she's not cheering at a BSU game or helping out with a Borah game, Chrissy is most likely serving up large, thick steaks and charming her customers at the Texas Roadhouse in Meridian.

I catch up with Chrissy again at the end of her shift as a server at Meridian's Texas Roadhouse.

I can hardly keep up as she sweeps peanut shells off the floor, wipes down menus, cashes out and refills the steak sauce, all of which she must do before leaving to study with Ian for a test in the morning.

On this particular day (a Tuesday), Chrissy started out in math class. Since then she's been to cheer practice. Then she had some lunch, worked out (which she does whenever she catches a spare moment) then went to work.

"She's always been a bundle of energy," said Roadhouse manager Curt Christensen, who hired Chrissy for the job last fall. "Her tables love her."

Christensen says that Chrissy doesn't flaunt her celebrity, and that she'll casually drop into conversation that her boyfriend plays for BSU.

When one table found out just who her boyfriend is, they asked if she'd get him to sign a football for them. She took the football, got it signed and returned it to a customer.

Before she leaves for the evening (to study with Ian), Chrissy boxes up a Caesar salad and a chicken breast for dinner.

I ask if if she ever has any down time.

Her answer: "Sometimes I'll take a Sunday off and have dinner at my mom's house."

Emily Simnitt is the Idaho Statesman's online reporter. To offer story ideas or comments, contact her at esimnitt@idahostatesman.com or 377-6429. Check out her stories at IdahoStatesman.com/Simnitt.