College Dance Team Central

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dancing Queens Support Fellow Athletes

They hold the throne to more titles than other CSUF sports teams

By: Elyse Marozick
The Daily Titan

They are seven-time national champions going for their eighth title this January, as well as defending champions at USA Nationals in Las Vegas, and they aren't the baseball team. This is the Cal State Fullerton Dance Team, and until now, have had little recognition on campus.

As one of the relatively newer athletic organizations at CSUF, the dance team holds more championship titles under its belt than any other sports team on campus. They have also appeared on ESPN numerous times in the United Dance Association's competition held in Florida every year.

Headed by two CSUF alumni, Jennie Volkert ('97) and Sam Shen ('98), the dance team held the second and final round of auditions Tuesday night. The auditions brought out 25 hopefuls, and by the end of the night, 11 had been named members of the dance team. The team has six returning members and five freshmen, making it an extremely young team.

"We have great talent on our team this year, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us," captain Kenndra Alvarez said.

Alvarez, 20, is a three-year member of the dance team and has been named captain for the second year in a row.

Competing in Division 1, the girls have some big shoes to fill, hoping to win their eighth title this year. The girls have been hard at work since last April when the first auditions were held. In August, they attended a pro-dance camp in Palm Springs with professional teams, including the San Diego Chargers' girls. The dance camp recognizes the best of the best in the college dance world and invites only five college dance teams from across the entire country. CSUF has been invited four times and is hoping next year to be invited when the camp moves to Chicago.

Alvarez said practices have been underway every Tuesday and Thursday night since the girls got back from camp in August, but they are stepping it up a notch by beginning Sunday night practices this weekend. The team has just over a month to learn and perfect a routine that will hopefully be the winning ticket to the national competitions in January and February. The routine is submitted by video with thousands of other applicants so CSUF's team has to be outstanding to get noticed.

"The last week in October is our taping week and it's very much like hell-week for football teams," Volkert, a coach for the past 10 years, said.

From the thousands of videos submitted, judges select 25 teams to invite to the 2008 UDA Nationals in Florida from Jan. 17 to 21. The top two routines win an all-expenses paid trip to Florida for the entire team. CSUF has been one of the lucky two in the past. The team hopes to achieve top two again this year. Once in Florida, the preliminary competition narrows the teams down to the top 10 and then airs the finals on ESPN, where CSUF has come out on top seven times in the last eight years.

In February, the team will also attend the USA National Competition in Las Vegas where the girls are two-time reigning champions. They hope to keep their first place title there, as well. There they will have a run-in with their hometown rivals from Cal State Long Beach. The CSUF dance team has yet to lose to its rivals and hopes to keep it that way this year.

"Often times there is a bitter idea there [in Las Vegas] because the winner of that event gets West Coast bragging rights; so it's pretty intense," Volkert said.

The dancers' season lasts nine months out of the year and every day finds them busier than the last. Not only do they begin preparing for nationals in August, but they also find time to participate in many events throughout the community. Most recently, they performed for CSUF's 50th anniversary celebration and the OC Heart Walk, a charity event held last Sunday at the Irvine Spectrum. Their performance Sunday made it the fourth year in a row the dance team has participated in the event.

The girls also support many of the other athletic teams on campus. They attend every men's and women's basketball home game, show support at some of the men's soccer games and were asked to come out and show support at CSUF baseball games last season.

"The girls are great," Shen said. "They workout together, work really hard together and are so well-rounded. Many of them work as well as dance ... they don't get nearly as much credit as they should."

"The team bonds so well and we have no drama and no problems," Alvarez said.

Past dance team members have even gone on to have professional careers in dance. Most recently, the team had two girls named to the Laker girls and Clipper girls, Volkert and Shen said.

New freshmen are excited for their first season on an award-winning dance team. They anticipate doing well in competition, but know they all need to work together to make it happen.

"You only have that one chance with the video," Lauren Hambrick, 18, said.

Even with all the hard work in store for the next month, the girls are looking forward to supporting their fellow athletic teams as well.

"I love that we cheer at the games," Sabrina Supler, 17, said. "I cannot wait for the games."

The CSUF dance team will be performing Thursday in a Los Angeles County Fair parade highlighting college mascots.

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