Lake Oswego and Lakeridge dance teams soared this weekend at the state championships in Portland.
Both local dance teams bested their own rankings last year in the 6A division of the Oregon School Activities Association's competition on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. LOHS landed second place, and Lakeridge danced its way into the No. 9 slot. The two local groups competed against 22 other talented 6A teams at the event. Last year, Lake Oswego took fourth place and Lakeridge received 11th place at state.
Performing to J2's "Born to Be Wild" (interspersed with beats from Nathan Lanier's "Sand"), LOHS gave No. 1-placing Sheldon High a scare by scoring 87.38 to the top-ranking team's 87.53 points. Kendall Shepherd, co-head coach of the Laker Dance Team, says her 22-person team pushes technique and skill level to "new limits every year" to "deliver complex and demanding routines."
"It takes a ton of time, effort and energy from all of us to put such a high level of talent on the competition floor," Shepherd says. "Super proud of what we accomplished this year!"
Meanwhile, another local team made its coaches proud. Moving to the rhythms of Andra Day's "Rise Up," the 17-strong Pacer dancers received 79.02 in the finals, and only the top 50 percent move on to that final round at state. So co-head coach Michelle Skidmore says the whole coaching staff was so proud to have seen the team progress to the top level of the competition.
"These girls left it all on the floor, and we were thrilled with their overall performance," Skidmore says. "What also struck a cord was watching them run over to congratulate the winning teams after awards closed. When your athletes are not only proud of themselves, but show such genuine character — that's a whole different kind of 'winning' in my book."
Plus, Lakeridge placed No. 3 in Academic All-state's Top 10 Dance/Drill Teams for winter 2016-17. Plus, senior and team co-captain Kenzie Hudler also received a $1,500 OSAA scholarship that's based on having at least a 3.5 GPA, extracurricular activities and recommendations from her coach and teachers.
"I was really not expecting it, but I'm really excited for the opportunity," says Hudler, also a member of The Review's Student Writers Advisory Group. She says she is incredibly proud of her team.
"We are all so close, and we are like 17 sisters," she adds.
In addition, individual dancers also were honored at state: Pacers Hudler and Gabby Rouier and Laker Lauren Cooper earned a place on the all-state team. Auditions are performed in February with a prepared routine and one that's learned on the spot, and the results are announced at state.
Another local honor went to the Lakers' co-head coach, Hayley DuLong, who received the 6A Dance/Drill Coach of the Year honor during the state competition. There are 250 members of the Dance & Drill Coaches Association of Oregon — which includes coaches, assistant coaches, choreographers and team managers — who nominate the most inspirational and capable among their ranks.
"It's very humbling to know that your peers who know the dance team world better than anyone, and they know you, feel like you deserve an honor," DuLong says. "That's what meant a lot to me."
LOHS senior and team co-captain Rhys Richmond says that every team member works hard to prepare for the big state competition and because they care about dancing. The whole team practices 12-18 hours per week, with some dancers putting in an extra one to seven hours one top of that, Richmond notes.
Regardless of where the Lakers placed she says the whole team is "really proud of how far we came" as dancers. And she's proud to participate in dance, which performs at school games in addition to competitions.
"It's a sport; it's an art; and it's also a source of spirit for the school," she says.