Tuesday, September 02, 2014

OU dance team earns national championship

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 4/18/2014

It seemed unreal. National champions.

Jenna Lunger could barely believe it when the announcement came that Ottawa University had won the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Dance Championships April 11 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

It seemed unreal. National champions.

Jenna Lunger could barely believe it when the announcement came that Ottawa University had won the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Dance Championships April 11 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“I was honestly in disbelief for a little bit, almost in shock because we’d been working so hard since January, and I just like never thought we’d be a national champion,” Lunger, a senior and four-year member of the Ottawa University dance team, said. “We’d always talked about being one ever since I’ve been at OU, but it just didn’t seem real.”

Ottawa University’s seven-woman team, with one alternate, took home the first-place trophy in the alliance’s national competition in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Small Team Performance. The team earned a bid to nationals last summer at National Dance Alliance camp at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., Shayla Siebenthall, head cheer and dance coach at OU, said.

“[NDA camp] has different competitions there and you get a bid based on how you did at camp,” Siebenthall said. “We had tryouts for our competition team in January and we chose our team then. From there, they practiced four days a week to prepare.”

Those who made the cut in January and performed at nationals included Lunger, Brylee Beiswanger, senior, Taylor Jones, junior, Rachel Pierce, sophomore, Leah Powell, sophomore, Rebecca Housman, freshman, Ada Castro Madrid, freshman, and alternate Baylie Kiefer, freshman.

The team competed against 10 teams in the preliminary round April 10 and came out in first place, Siebenthall said.

“It is always hard being in first place out of prelims because everyone is coming after you,” she said. “They kept their first place standing, which is not very common.”

After coming out on top in the first round, the team competed again April 11 against the six remaining teams that advanced to the finals. Their 2-minute, 15-second performance, which incorporated jazz, pop and hip-hop dancing, wowed the judges who gave the routine a score of 8.792 out of a possible 10 to clinch the national championship.

“It was a routine that we’ve been working on since January,” Siebenthall said. “They pretty much have a judge for every aspect. I think there were about 12 different categories that they judged from.”

The win marks the first-ever national championship by an OU dance squad and the team’s first appearance at nationals, Siebenthall said. After two days of performing and learning of their big win Friday night, the team had a free day Saturday that they spent enjoying time on the beach before returning to Ottawa, she said.

Lunger said the win gave closure to her dance career and she was proud of the way her team competed throughout the weekend.

“It was just a great way to end my dance career, and I know all my teammates were blessed to be able to have this opportunity, and we can’t thank our coaches and school enough for believing in us,” she said. “It is such good closure. I won the biggest thing I could win in dance and it is such a big accomplishment. It makes me so proud of my team and I feel very blessed.”

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