The Waupaca High School Dance Team celebrated its state championships by doing what it does best – dancing.
“I wanted the girls to have an evening all about them, for them to have their floor. It’s extra fun to be here as champs,” Coach Amy Marcom said after the team danced together one last time in front of hundreds of people.
Their first ever post-state rally was held Monday, Feb. 4, in the high school gym, with the girls dancing both of their winning routines.
The middle school dance team, coached by Molly Doray, also danced both of its routines after recently winning a state championship in jazz and placing fourth in pom.
“We scheduled the event before we headed to state. It’s our last opportunity to show off our routines,” Marcom said. “We’ve been working hard not only on our skills but on being a team, and we won state.”
The high school team’s state championship was Saturday, Feb. 2, in La Crosse, and when the team arrived home on Sunday, Feb. 3, the city’s police and fire departments escorted them through Waupaca.
They paused at the corner of Main and Badger streets for a Chinese fire drill.
As the 24 members of the team ran around the bus, family and friends cheered and took video and photographs of the event.
Marcom, who just ended her 12th year as the high school dance team coach, sees dance as being secondary for her group of young women.
Her main goal as their coach is “building each girl’s character and teaching them about discipline and hard work and to stick with it,” she said.
The members of her dance team come from different social groups, and their ages vary, but when they are together, they are a team, Marcom said.
That message was reinforced before they headed to La Crosse for the state championship.
Their Thursday, Jan. 31, practice ended with former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Haggerty talking to them about how to focus.
Haggerty, of Wilmington, Del., served as a Navy SEAL for 10 years.
He is a relative of dance team member Kika Udoni. She and fellow seniors Haley Johnson, Emma Kelley and Becca Reeves were the captains of this year’s dance team.
In addition to the four seniors, this year’s team was made up of juniors Courtney Bloom, McKenna Gustke, Courtney Jungers, Zoe Minehart, Abby Paynter and Aubrey Schroeder; sophomores Diana Chu, Emily Cummings, Alexa Johnson and Kelsie Krawczyk; and freshmen Cheyenne Bennett, Madison Hansen, Claire Jungers, Kelsey Klismet, Kira Mielke, Brenna Neumann, Julianne Reynolds, Brooklyn Rohloff, Abigail Stone and Nicole Weise.
Johnson, Kelley and Reeves began dancing together in elementary school, and Udoni joined them in middle school.
During Monday evening’s pep rally, Johnson thanked the community for supporting them.
“Dancing on the floor with these three girls has been a privilege,” she said, referring to her fellow captains. “I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Marcom, too, recognized the community and said she appreciates the support she has received from the parents of the dancers, all her past dancers and her family.
The high school’s dance team has been to state 11 times and has six state titles, she said.
For the team, practice starts in June and builds to five days a week during the school year.
“I have girls who have studio experience and some who have never danced a day in their life. There are no requirements of past experience to be on the team,” Marcom said.
Of the amount of work they put into it, Kelley said, “You do it for the team.”
From Marcom, Kelley learned a team has to function as a unit.
Moods affect others, and there were times Marcom stopped practice and talked her team through whatever feelings they were experiencing.
“I feel Amy is like a sister and a friend,” Kelley said.
Haggerty said, “There are a lot of similarities between dance and being a SEAL. When we go into a house to get a bad guy, everything has to be choreographed.”
He talked to the dance team about the amount of practice required of the Navy SEAL team which found Osama bin Laden in 2011.
“They practiced and practiced and practiced,” he said. “It was step by step by step. If you skip ahead to step 38, you’re done.”
Haggerty explained to the team how to use “front sight focus” to make their dancing as clear as possible.
“It’s incredibly simple, but it’s hard to do,” he said. “I don’t know anything about dance, but I can guarantee you that if you start thinking about mistakes or successes, it’s all going to come apart.”
He told them to trust each other.
“Get in the moment. Focus on yourself,” Haggerty said. “Make your family blurry. Make your friends blurry. Make your coach blurry, just for a second, and just dance. You guys are going to win a state championship.”
And, they did.