Senior Dance Team members reflect on memories and success


Kenzie Kuhlmann

The graduating members of the Baker Dance Team reflect on their experience with the team and its success over the years.

As their competition season comes to a close, the Baker University Dance Team has seen exceptional success as they continue to grow and evolve. The team danced their way to the top throughout the season, winning both the Heart of America Regional Qualifier and Midwest Regional Championship as well as placing sixth at the 2022 NAIA National Championship. Most recently, the team flew to Orlando, Fla. to compete in The Dance Team Union College Classic where they placed third in each of their three competitions. Four strong senior team members played an influential role in the team’s success and will leave behind a legacy of dedication.

Jaila Randle at age six.

Jaila Randle

For Senior Jaila Randle, one of the captains of the 2021-2022 Baker Dance Team, joining the world of collegiate dance took some convincing at first. Despite dancing for almost 20 years of her life, Randle never had any intention of dancing at a collegiate level before coming to Baker.

Growing up in Kansas City, Kan., Randle was an All-American on a competitive cheer team throughout middle school and high school. “Dancing has always been a part of my life,” Randle said. “It’s like an escape from reality.”

After copious support from friends, Randle found the confidence to take her dance skills to the next level. A short two weeks before her high school graduation, she had her first visit to Baker where she met Head Dance Coach and Assistant Athletic Director of Sports Performance and Athletic Health Lynsey Payne. Upon arrival, she immediately fell in love with the university and found the institution that checked all her boxes. “I never thought I would ever be on a college dance team, but somehow Lynsey convinced me.”

With graduation around the corner, Randle explains that the end of her final dance season feels surreal. “There’s never a dull moment that I won’t remember,” Randle said. “With each of us having our own personalities, we really push each other out of every single one of our comfort zones and that’s what makes me love this team.”

Though Randle feels the team didn’t receive the award they earned at the National Competition, she is proud of her team for “performing their hearts out.”

The All-American Athlete and three-time All-Conference Athlete encourages new dancers to stay open-minded throughout their college experience. “Don’t be afraid to let your personality show through your performance and even during practices,” Randle said. “You’ll be surprised how far it takes you.”

Kelsi Toy at age 12.

Kelsi Toy

Senior Kelsi Toy of Olathe, Kan. began dancing over 12 years ago as a fifth-grader. Since the age of nine she has been active and dancing, which became an important part of her life. Initially, she was inspired by her elementary school teacher that worked part-time at a dance studio. Her love for dance only grew throughout her childhood which led her to try out for her middle school dance team. For Toy, dancing became an outlet and in highschool, it added structure and discipline that translated into her success in college.

Toy began her collegiate dance career at Avila University and transferred to Baker at the beginning of her junior year. As a well-seasoned member of the team, Toy is sentimental about leaving Baker and leaving behind a team that has meant so much to her. “I don’t think it will officially hit me that it is over until I won’t be attending practices or competing anymore,” Toy said. “However, I feel very fulfilled and proud of the season we had.”

The team flew to Ysplianti, Mich. for the NAIA National Dance Competition, an experience that Toy holds close to her heart. She was excited to be in a new and competitive environment, and was proud of the team’s hard work to earn their spot in the competition. “My favorite moment from Nationals was when we sat as a team and watched videos that family members and friends had sent us wishing us good luck,” Toy said. “We all sat there and cried from the overwhelming love and support we had received.”

Throughout her time at Baker, Toy was awarded the Champion of Character Award.“[Our team is] able to push each other to be better not just in dance, but in our lives outside of dance.” Toy said. “Every single one of my teammates is so deserving and we all show up for one another which creates such a supportive environment.”

Toy encourages young dancers to challenge themselves and be graceful with themselves when the going gets hard.“Take every opportunity you have to dance and push yourself out of your normal, because growth comes from leaning into the tough stuff,” Toy said. “Being an athlete comes with pressure and stressors, but showing yourself kindness allows you to bring a positive mindset to your team dynamic.”

Kinleigh Brecheisen at age two.

Kinleigh Brecheisen

Initially growing up as a multi-sport athlete, Senior Kinleigh Brecheisen quickly realized that she had a unique passion for dance. Brecheisen was raised in Salina, Kan. where she first danced for the Prestige School of Dance as a part of the school’s national championship team. She continued on to serve as the two-year captain of the Salina Central High School Dance Team, an experience that prepared her well for her time at Baker.

Dancing at a collegiate level was no surprise for Brecheisen, she always knew dance would be a big part of her life. Brecheisen first heard about Baker through a friend. “Once I visited and got to practice with the team, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” Brecheisen said.

Serving as one of the Baker Dance Team captains, Brecheisen also gained leadership experience through other local dance organizations. She currently coaches for the Baldwin Academy of Dance and Voice competition team as well as choreographed dances for the Salina high schools and the Paola School of Dance. Her dedication to dance translated into many seasons of achievement.

Brecheisen explains that the culture of the Baker team is special and plays a big role in the team’s overall success. She is amazed at the team’s family-like dynamic as she reflects on her unique experience over the past four years. “I will always remember that no matter what we go through as a team we come out of it better,” Brecheisen said. “No matter the obstacle, we find the positives, we work together, and make the most out of every situation we face.”

The All-American and All-Conference Athlete believes that the team’s dedication to dance year-round only strengthens their bonds. “We build each other up, we push one another, and win or lose, we give it everything we’ve got,” Brecheisen said. “We have a connection with each other that exceeded the previous years.”

As her time on the team comes to a close, Brecheisen has worked to soak up every last moment with her teammates. “The potential for this program is exceptional and I am so excited to see where it goes,” Brecheisen said. “I have been so proud to wear BUDT on my shirt for four years and soon, I will be just as proud to wear ‘BUDT Alumni.’”

Payton Johnson at age three.

Payton Johnson

Growing up on both sides of Kansas City, Senior Payton Johnson always had the energy necessary to be a life-long dancer. Johnson’s family remembers her dancing ever since she was able to walk all the way through her collegiate years.

Johnson, like Randle, assumed that highschool would be the end of the road for her dancing career. It was not until Payne offered her a position on the team that she became excited about the possibility. “I was very thrilled, and the experience has been amazing ever since,” Johnson said. “I would have never turned this position down and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”

For Johnson, the Baker Dance Team was an essential part of her college experience. “All the memories I have on this team, I will continue to cherish forever,” Johnson said. “From snowed out practices on the field, to Allen Field House cleans, to traveling on the road together and to our famous Chili’s dinners and so much more. The dance team has brought so much light to my collegiate experience.”

The thought of leaving behind the strong bonds Johnson has made on the team is bittersweet. “We aren’t just teammates, we are actually family,” Johnson said. “I am scared to let this part of my life go.”

Senior members like Johnson have seen the team fail and succeed over the years which only sweetens the recent accomplishments of the team. Johnson was named a three-time All-Conference Athlete and has danced at Nationals all four years with the Baker team. “We work so hard during our entire season and bringing that together to win both conference and regional titles in 2020 and 2022 has made every moment rewarding,” Johnson said.

She encourages future Baker dancers to bring nothing but themselves. “Whatever flair you bring to the team will be what sets your team apart from others. Dance like no one’s watching and give every performance, game, tradition your all,” Johnson said. “You’ll never regret doing what you love with the people you so deeply care about.”