Engineering major to lead Rally Cats into competition
Alex Limberis was a high-kicking, pom-wielding, crowd-dazzling Rally Cat when she went onto center court at Littlejohn Coliseum to dance in front of more than 10,000 basketball fans.
On a recent morning, as she stood in front of a white board covered with math equations, she had an audience of one, a student who needed help with his math homework.
Limberis is game day captain of the Rally Cats and most strongly identifies as a member of the squad. But off the court she is immersed in engineering and math, as a mechanical engineering major, math tutor and mentor to underclassmen.
“Math is my strong suit,” Limberis said. “That’s what I like to do. I like crunching numbers.”
Her experience underscores how students, even those in the most challenging majors, can make the most of their time at Clemson by venturing beyond the classroom. This week, her journey will take her to the NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida where she will support the Tigers in one of her last events as a Rally Cat before graduation.
For Limberis, the Clemson experience has meant packing her schedule with activities from time she gets up until her head hits the pillow.
Limberis, a senior, wakes up at 5:30 a.m. for morning workouts twice a week and has practice after class three times a week. The Rally Cats dance at men’s home football and basketball games and do public appearances for charities and other organizations.
Sometimes she has to show up for class with “way too much makeup for 9 a.m.,” she said.
“That’s my busy schedule coming into play,” Limberis said.
Leslie Spearman, the Rally Cats’ coach and a former Carolina Panthers cheerleader, called Alex her “No. 1 gal.”
“She is always on top of everything and always willing to go the extra mile for the Rally Cats,” Spearman said. “I commend her because I know that she has a very demanding major. She is my captain this year. She was voted into that by her peers, which says a lot.”
Limberis is the elder of two engineering majors on the squad this year. Mallory Flores, a freshman in General Engineering, also has a bright future in engineering and with the Rally Cats, said Spearman, who is a biology teacher at J.L. Mann High School in Greenville.
In addition to her dancing, Limberis has found time to be a member of the Tri Delta sorority and a mentor to underclassmen who are majoring in mechanical engineering as part of the Jansen Family Emerging Scholar Program.
Gregory Mocko, the associate professor who oversees the Jansen program, said that Limberis is positive, easy to work with, and an example of how students can balance academics with other activities. It’s a combination he encourages.
“That well-roundedness gets students out of the classroom mentality and the book mentality and into being more aware and conscious of opportunities around them,” he said. “Being more well-rounded leads to a maturity level in students that allows them to connect book learning with opportunities that exist outside the University. It just makes them more prepared.”
Limberis, who is from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, said she became interested in engineering early in life and remembers pressing her mother to explain how batteries could make a clock work.
“Alex, I think that means you need to be an engineer if you want to know,” Limberis recalls her mother saying.
Limberis said she has been dancing since she was 2 or 3. She danced competitively through high school and tried out for the Rally Cats before coming to Clemson as a freshman.
One of her best memories is the football team’s victory over Notre Dame in her sophomore year.
Limberis remembers the cold rain and mud up to her mid-calves, but it’s the roar of the crowd that is really seared into her memory.
“Take this in for a moment because they are cheering so loud I can hear it in my bones– I can feel the cheering,” Limberis remembers telling herself as she stood on the field. “It was the loudest situation I’ve been in.”
Her best engineering experience is her senior design project in Mechanical Engineering 4020. She is working with a team to help an Anderson textile company figure out how to use leftover PVC-coated yarn.
“Our job is to find out something they can do with it, whether it gets recycled back into their facility or it’s a marketable product they can sell or it’s something that can be used in a charitable or humanitarian project,” Limberis said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
When it was her turn to choreograph a dance routine, Limberis told her 4020 classmates, and they showed up at Littlejohn Coliseum to watch the performance, she said.
Her fellow Rally Cats have been supportive of her engineering endeavors.
“A lot of girls on the team are involved in really difficult majors, so we’re really supportive of each other because we know I’m not the only one going to the library after practice to work,” Limberis said.
For Tal Wanish, it’s more than dance, engineering and math that makes Limberis standout. Wanish, who is in the Jansen program with Limberis, said he met her after watching her pick up a piece of garbage from a busy sidewalk and carry it to a trash can several yards away.
“That moment showed me how much she respected and cared about a place that she had no ties to yet, as a new student from across the country,” Wanish said. “It caught my attention, and it shows how much she cares both about the places and people around her.”
Limberis plans to move to Denver after graduating and isn’t yet sure what she will do next.
As graduation edged closer, she considered what advice she would give to someone younger than her. It took her back to a critical decision she made while still in high school.
Was she going to stick with dance in college or drop it? Limberis is glad she stuck with it.
“Don’t give up something you love,” she said. “Even if it’s not your lifelong dream to pursue, it could turn out to be.”