Dance team clinches first-ever Nationals bid

Written By Dara Collins, Co-Sports Editor

The competitive dance team will head to the second annual NAIA Competitive Cheer and Dance Championships on March 9-10 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma after receiving an at-large bid at the NAIA Northwest Regional Qualifying Tournament.

The dance team boasted an undefeated streak this season until the College Saints Showdown on Feb. 4 after struggling to place first in the previous season. On the other hand, the cheer team holds two first place victories in its past two seasons.

The cheer and dance teams came up short last season of a national bid as the competitive cheer squad finished nine of 12 teams, and the competitive dance team finished four of seven teams.

This season, the teams finished on a higher note. Both teams traveled to Sioux City, Iowa for the regional competition on Feb. 23, where both teams placed second. However, only the dance team advanced to nationals.

“We were ecstatic that we got a bid because we were so close last year and now we finally have a chance to showcase our talent at a national level,” junior Alexis Diaz-Albertini said.

The four regional champions moved on to the national competition as well as eight other teams from both the cheer and dance divisions. The remaining spots were filled based on regular season scores and the qualifying group tournaments.

Point Park’s dance team secured second place at the regional contest with 75.13 points, just 3.42 points shy of first place and regional champion Midland.

The cheer team also fell behind Midland, scoring 68.67 points to the Warriors’ 69.79.

Senior Amber Mole reflected on her cheer career as the season came to a close.

“[Cheer] was a great experience and people know who Point Park is,” Mole said. “We’ve received so many compliments.”

With a second place finish, Mole is confident the cheer team has an equal opportunity to make it to nationals in future seasons.

Three dance team members earned NAIA All-American honors and five members received Honorable Mention last Tuesday.

Sophomore Emily Kirsch earned her second All-American honor of her career, and seniors Deanna Harris and Kenneth Sickles completed the NAIA All-American trifecta.

Freshmen Kayla McDonald and Victoria Kunelis, sophomore Kimberly Keagy and seniors Darian Leighty and Mole earned Honorable Mention status.

“My coach asked me to try out for the All-American team, and you perform by yourself in front of the judges your three best leaps. When I was asked to do that, it was such an honor,” Keagy said. “It was a great feeling that I put in all this hard work and it paid off.”

Although the routine to perform for the All-American team was difficult this year, according to Mole, the team performed well.

“I’m proud of all my teammates who received awards…and I am grateful to have the title,” Mole said.

The dance athletes will compete in the national competition alongside 11 other teams at 5:30 p.m. eastern on March 9, and awards will be announced the following day beginning at 3:25 p.m.

The dance team will alter the routine accordingly based on judge feedback.

“We’re utilizing our coach’s feedback and the judges’ feedback to improve our routine for nationals,” Keagy said.