Competitive dance is a relatively new sport as far as the IHSA goes. For the performers at Morris Community High School, having a successful pom-pom team is anything but new.
After all the Redskins dance squad is regularly announced as the “33 time state champions” when the locals perform at home games, having earned that by competing in other organizations like TDI, IDTA and UDA in the past.
Last year was the first time the IHSA hosted competitive dance as a state sanctioned event and declared it an official sport. This year the Redskins will be hosting its own 47 team sectional with the top six teams in Class 1A, 2A and 3A advancing to the state finals to be held at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
“We are very excited for the advantage to perform on our home court,” Morris coach Becky Struck said. “The energy in the gym from the Morris fans should be a great motivator for the girls to give a top-notch performance.”
Last year Morris won the Class 2A Minonk Sectional with a team score of 86.37 and then ended seventh overall down in Bloomington with a score of 81.06. The Redskins are hoping for a repeat of that sectional performance.
“I think it’s really exciting and cool that we get to do it. Performing in front of everybody at home. I think we’re going to get a lot of supporters,” Morris senior captain Molli Aldrich said. “I feel like traveling is much more stressful because you are not familiar with where you are at. We’re hoping that’s an advantage. We’re just going to go out and do our best.”
Aldrich said the Morris dance team has been working to perfect it’s lone routine for the IHSA.
“We’re doing Poison for the IHSA. It’s strictly that one dance and we’ve been getting feedback after every competition and we’ve been trying to correct everything we can and so far that’s worked,” she said. “After every competition we’ve gotten higher and higher scores and hopefully we can continue that. I think we’re ready to go.”
Struck said the team has been working and learning the new association’s scoring nuiances.
“This year, we have been really looking at the IHSA rubric and focusing on perfecting a solid routine,” she said. “We have competed twice so far, and we have tweaked the dance both times after looking at the judges’ scoresheets. IHSA is difficult because our pom routine competes against many other types of dances; there is no separation of categories like in other competitive dance circuits (TDI, IDTA, UDA).”
Morris will be competing in Class 1A and neighboring Minooka also will be there and dancing in Class 3A, as well.
“At sectionals, we will be competing against 16 other teams who will be bringing all different types of performances, and only the top six qualify for state,” Struck said. “There is a little bit of added pressure since we will be defending our sectional win from last year. I know the girls are very excited about performing on our home court.”
In terms of hosting the event itself, Morris athletic director George Dergo said he is hoping the competition runs as smoothly as last year’s Northern Illinois Big 12 event. An event that earned MCHS high praise for the way it ran.
“Last year we hosted the first NIB12 Conference competitive dance event. One of our judges for that competition is a top IHSA official who plays a major role in the IHSA competitive dance panels and forums,” Dergo said about getting the bid to host the sectional. “While she was here, she toured our facilities and our set up is very favorable for a competitive dance competition and coach Struck ran a smooth competition. I would have to think that was a big factor. Another factor in our favor is our location. We are very accessible with limited travel for many schools. This will be one of only five sectionals in the state. It will really test our organization and manpower.”
The event begins at 10 a.m. with the Class 1A competition running through 11:52 a.m., then Class 2A starts at 12:32 p.m. and finishes at 2:03 p.m. Class 3A ends the day running from 2:43 p.m. through approximately 5 p.m. Morris will run its routine at 10:14 a.m. and Minooka performs at 3:25 p.m.