Dance team earns berth to nationals

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Dance team earns berth to nationals

Story by Jenna Stanbrough

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The Baker University dance team has earned an automatic berth to the NAIA National Invitational with a first-place finish Feb. 22 at the West Regional Qualifier in Oklahoma City.

The NAIA National Invitational will take place March 14-15 in Oklahoma City.

“Before, we used to kind of be partnered with (National Cheerleaders Association) and (National Dance Association),” head dance coach Lynsey Payne said. “Now, the NAIA is doing their own independent thing, because we want to move forward being more of a competitive sport.”

In the past, the dance divisions were split up into either a small dance consisting of two-to-nine dancers or a large dance with 10-or-more people, whereas the competition is now one category for six-to-16 dancers per team.

In order to qualify, teams had to attend two competitions prior to the regional qualifier. Baker competed at the Cupid Classic hosted by Missouri Valley College Feb. 8 and the Heart of America Athletic Conference championships, finishing first at each competition.

“Technically, our dance is really hard and it’s a really strong technical dance, and so when we execute it, it looks really good,” Payne said. “There’s still some improvements that we can make for nationals, and so hopefully we go back and we’re able to win it again.”

Baker beat out Oklahoma City University in the regional qualifier, earning an automatic berth. Seven teams then earned at-large bids based off scores. The other teams competing are Oklahoma City, Midland, Siena Heights, Briar Cliff, Concordia and Grand View.

“We have a bigger competition at nationals, so it’s kind of nerve racking but at the same time exciting,” sophomore Erika Mallery said. “We just have to keep working hard because since we beat Oklahoma City, they’re probably coming after us pretty strong and practicing hard, so we just have to keep practicing hard, as well.”

Four members of the Baker dance team earned All-America honors: senior Maddie Kristoffersen, junior Amanda Seeley, Mallery and freshman Kaitlyn Stout. In order to be selected for the honor, the women had to learn a routine and perform a series of leaps and a turn sequence.

“It’s something that I had never done before and I’d heard about it, and so this year, a few of us actually decided to do it,” Kristoffersen said. “To be able to be selected as one of them is really exciting and it’s a really good honor to have.”

Payne said that while she is excited for the team to face strong competition at nationals, she is also excited to see the NAIA taking steps to make dance a more competitive sport. Scores will be based off technical requirements, which include a team leap, team turn and a turn sequence.

“So much is like, ‘I like this dance, I like this music, and so I’m going to give them a higher score,’” Payne said. “It just brings a little bit more to it. It’s kind of taking it toward what gymnastics or ice skating would be. I think it’s moving cheer and dance into the right direction.”