College Dance Team Central

Sunday, February 22, 2009

ECU Dance Team Wants More

By Kristin Day
The Daily Reflector

Back in January, more than 3,000 athletes from across the country, plus Puerto Rico, gathered in Orlando, Fla., for an all-out battle for bragging rights and a chance to show their skills on national television.

It was the 2009 College Cheer and Dance Team National Championship, as well as ECU's return to the national competition since its last visit 10 years ago. Highlights from the competition air Sunday and March 19 on ESPN2.

It wasn't that long ago — November to be exact — when Coach Kristin Winstead told the team its videotape submission had earneda spot in Florida.

“We all screamed,” Sarah Miller, a junior at ECU, said.

“Especially since it was such a hassle last year,” senior Monica Williams added. Apparently, there were some financial issues.
But after finding out, they “practiced their butts off,” said junior Shelley Underhill, and basically gave up their winter break to develop their choreography.

“In actuality, we had less than two months to learn a routine and perfect it,” Miller said.

On Jan. 16, the team flew to Orlando.

“Better than the bus ride to Memphis (for the Liberty Bowl),” freshman Jordyn Barrick said.

The team stayed at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, “the basketball place,” according to sophomore Emily Hendricks.

“It's like oversized hoops and basketballs this big,” said sophomore Rebecca Thomas as she raised her arm about eye level.

Participants from 152 universities and an estimated 6,000 spectators twittered around the Wide World of Sports Complex and the Indiana Jones Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios that weekend. ECU team members describe the scene as “very school spirited” and a little bit like the movie “Bring It On.” But the teams, though in contention, remained supportive of one another.

ECU first performed in the semifinals for the Hip Hop Dance division, although the routine was set to a rock ‘n' roll medley. There were nerves, of course, but once their feet hit the stage, the girls said all their anxiety disappeared.
And when list of teams was called out for the finals, all they could do was sit in anticipation as each team's name was read.

One by one until, finally, ECU was called.

“They tricked us,” Barrick, said, and the rest of the girls laughed.

“But it was a big deal,” junior Courtney Catalfano said. “We were bawling our eyes out.”

The best feeling, perhaps, was the reaction from other schools, some of whom seemed surprised by the skill displayed by a dance team they had never seen before.

ECU danced for the finals on Sunday and placed 15th in the nation for Hip Hop Dance. The top three teams will be shown on ESPN, but ECU's performance can still be seen online here.

Team members say their accomplishments give them motivation for next year's competition, although they might start practicing a little earlier this time.

“Now we know what to expect and what to do. ... It's like we got our toes wet,” Miller said, before several of the girls motioned as if they were sticking their toes in water.

Williams, a senior, just wants her team to remember why they're there next year.

“I just hope in the future, everybody has fun,” she said. “Sometimes we got stressed, but you have to remember you're doing it because you love to dance.”

“The second you step on stage, it's worth it,” Miller added.

They also hope winning a ranking spot will garner more recognition from some of their peers.

“I think we're hoping to get a little more respect from the students,” senior Megan Thornton said. “People look at us and think we're just the girls with the half-tops.”

“They think (the moves) are cool, but that's it,” sophomore Brianne Camp said.

The ECU Dance Team will enter the competition again this year in hopes of finishinghigher. But the chances of getting Pee Dee into the mascots division? Not good, they say. Mascots have to be invited.

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