The Highland High School varsity dance team made it a three-peat after winning its third IHSA 1A state dance title in a row Saturday at the IHSA Competitive Dance State Final Competition at Grossinger Motor Arena in Bloomington.
“Winning a third consecutive IHSA state title is an absolute amazing feeling,” Highland coach Emily Wellen said. “Words cannot describe how proud I am of my team. A lot of people outside the dance world don’t understand how hard these girls work, how much pressure they are under, and how many hours they put in to make their routines perfect. Needless to say, all of their efforts paid off this weekend.”
On Friday, Highland competed in prelims for a spot in Saturday’s finals. The team not only earned one of the 12 spots in Saturday’s finals, but the squad posted the best team score of 93.80, which came within an eyelash of being three full points higher than Morris’ second-best score in the prelims.
“Our prelim performance was a little shaky,” Wellen said. “That first day at state I really think the nerves get the best of myself and the team. Collectively, we all agreed that it wasn’t our strongest performance. When I received our scores after prelims we ended up placing first by three points, which is huge. That was a big surprise for us, but we knew that only meant we had to get back to our hotel to clean up what we knew wasn’t the strongest that day.”
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In Saturday’s finals, Highland posted a winning team score of 95.08, which edged out Morris (94.06) by 1.02 points for the 1A state championship. Lombard Montini rounded out the top three teams which took home a state trophy.
“Coming back Saturday to compete was a whole different feeling,” Wellen said. “I could tell that everyone felt more confident. The girls were just ready to perform. The routine was completely different. You could feel the passion my team had while they were dancing, and they performed a flawless routine. The teams and routines we were up against were very good, so until they called our name for first place we were all a nervous wreck. Our final score was 95.08, which is the highest score I have ever received while coaching. Overall the feelings from this weekend are all so positive. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out.”
Coach Wellen is stepping down after her second season at the helm is complete.
“Unfortunately, this will be my last season coaching,” she said. “I am graduating in May which was the main factor in deciding to resign. But we still have the Highland IDTA Regional and IDTA state (Feb. 9-11 in Springfield) to focus on yet. I am going to miss coaching so much, but I’ll still be around in the background I’m sure.”
It is not official yet, but Highland Middle School dance coach Erin Cotto is expected to take over the reins of the HHS varsity program.
Senior co-captains Olivia Genteman, Abigail Rogier, Kayla Davis and Katie Etter were all excited to three-peat as state champions in their final IHSA competition.
“Words cannot describe how excited and how amazed I am,” Genteman said. “They are all understatements. We, as a team, have worked so hard all season for this moment and it has truly paid off. I am so grateful to be apart of such an amazing team that just keeps going.”
Rogier said she couldn’t be more proud of her team.
“The first day at prelims, we got all of our nerves out and performed pretty well but still knew that we could do better and give more energy to the routine,” Rogier said. “After practicing that night, we came back the second day feeling ready and confident to perform to the best of our abilities. That’s exactly what everyone did. We performed and danced for ourselves and left everything out on the floor. We have worked super hard the whole season for this and the hard work finally paid off. I love these girls and this team more than anything.”
The HHS varsity dance team consists of Kayla Davis, Bree Etherton, Katie Etter, Alexis Finely, Paige Foster, Olivia Genteman, Kylie McFarland, Abbey Mortland, Claire Pabst, Abigail Rogier Tatum Stock and Brooke Wilson.