Several local teams advance in Competitive Dance State Finals
BLOOMINGTON, Jan 26, 2013 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A competitive dancing dynasty may be budding at Fieldcrest High School that could soon compete with Coach Matt Winkler's perennially strong boys' basketball teams for the affections of the community, not to mention gym time for practice in Minonk.
Winkler, coach at Fieldcrest for 21 years, and his players were among about 150 from Fieldcrest who made the trip by bus Friday to U.S. Cellular Coliseum. They cheered on the Fieldcrest dance team in the inaugural IHSA Competitive Dance State Finals that continue through Saturday.
"That was awesome that he and the whole basketball team came," said Fieldcrest dance coach Tina Fortner. "We're a small school, but the pride of Fieldcrest and the way the teams support each other is just phenomenal.
"Having that support of our school behind us and having the pride of Fieldcrest was a huge pump for (the team) to get them motivated."
Fortner said it is "awesome" the IHSA has recognized competitive dancing as a sport. She has coached at the school for more than two decades, but until this year competitive dance was a club sport.
Fieldcrest won a state title at the club level three years ago and hopes to take some IHSA hardware home this weekend. The Knights advanced to Saturday's final round by finishing 10th in Class 1A.
University High coach Laurie Merriman says the IHSA's recognition has been a motivating factor behind the success of her squad, which competed against Fieldcrest and 28 others in 1A on Friday.
"I think there's a little bit more fire in their belly," Merriman said. "Now that it's a state-sanctioned kind of competition, it means you can bring something back to the school and the day we actually have a banner at one of those gymnasiums at U High that represent dance, I'll know that we have actually made it."
Reaching that goal was delayed for a year Friday as the Pioneers finished outside of the top 10 and did not advance.
Mahomet-Seymour had the highest 1A sectional score in the state. Coach Jackie Risley said that set the bar high for this weekend.
"There's a different set of judges here today, so I'm hoping the girls provide the same performance they did last weekend, if not better," she said.
Mahomet-Seymour is led by co-captains Abby Grinberg and Morgan DeHaan, who said her team also could expect a busload of student fans.
"A lot of them are really excited about coming to watch today," she said. "First of all, they all get out of school and they always love that."
Mahomet-Seymour narrowly missed advancing to today's finals, placing 11th.
Streator advanced by finishing ninth. The team recently took third in the state at the club level. Co-head coach Bri Nink says the IHSA sanctioning has improved the visibility of competitive dance.
"When we got third in state it was barely recognized," she said. "Now we get a conference championship and it's like the biggest thing in the world."
Normal Community represented the area in Class 2A. Head coach Mindy Ewalt says the dance routines are somewhat akin to mainland versions of Hawaiian hulas.
"We're athletes who tell a story through our motions and emotions," she said.
Senior Ali Wiegand is a co-captain of the NCHS team along with Melanie Sikyta. Wiegand is a standout on the NCHS softball team and says the dance teams are just as committed as other sports.
"We put in just as much work," she said.
NCHS finished 16th among the 30 teams in Class 2A and did not advance to the finals.
Bethalto Civic Memorial (1A), Highland (2A) and Stevenson (3A) lead the standings heading into Saturday's final round.
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