Glendale, Ariz. – This weekend became a lot more interesting for South Carolina student-athlete Aurie Engel Schmieding.
Her original plan was probably to watch the South Carolina men's basketball team play in the Final Four on television back in Columbia. However, the junior member of the equestrian team instead found herself helping to sing the national anthem prior to the big game before South Carolina and Gonzaga in Phoenix, Arizona.
A NCAA representative reached out to each school in the Final Four to find out who would sing the national anthem, and equestrian head coach Boo Major recommended Schmieding.
"I had to send a video to them of me singing, and they chose me from that," Schmieding told Spurs & Feathers the day before the game.
She joined three others in singing the anthem, and while Schmieding had no idea that it was even possible, she quickly jumped at the idea.
Singing is something that Schmieding took up at a very early age.
"I probably started when I was seven or eight years old," Schmieding said. "I had a little band, and I sang in high school, but never anything super serious."
That quickly changed on Saturday. Schmieding was full of excitement leading up the moment, but things were a bit different just before she took the court at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"The nerves will definitely set in (Saturday)," Schmieding said.
It's been quite a journey for the men's basketball team, and many people have enjoyed going along for the ride. Schmieding originally wasn't planning on making the trip to Phoenix, but this singing opportunity gives her the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"It's such a big moment for South Carolina athletics to have both teams go to the Final Four," Schmieding said. "I'm just really excited and honored to get to take part in it."
Schmieding had a lot of people cheering for her as she took the big stage on national television.
"My phone has been blowing up since I figured out about it," Schmieding said. "Everyone is so excited."
The Gamecocks fell to Gonzaga, 77-73, in the national semifinals, bringing a close to an incredible season for the team.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo of Schmieding (far left) by Allen Sharpe**