The Highland High School varsity dance team continued its unprecedented and unparalleled level of state success.
The Lady Bulldogs remained the only squad in the state of Illinois to earn a podium finish for placing in the top three at the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Competitive Dance State Finals all four years competitive dance has been an IHSA sport when the Lady Bulldogs locked up their second 1A state title in the past three years on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
A week after 75 teams competed at five IHSA sectionals throughout the state with Highland capturing its fourth straight sectional championship, 30 teams took to the stage on Friday for the prelims. The top 10 squads advanced to Saturday’s finals.
After Friday’s prelims, Highland was ranked second after being edged out by Morris by .02 of a point, 91.46 to 91.44. However, the Lady Bulldogs bounced back better than ever in Saturday’s finals, eclipsing Morris by .32 of a point, 92.84 to 92.52 to clinch the program’s second IHSA state crown.
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Sycamore finished a distant third place at 88.30 but got the final trophy for its podium finish.
The other seven teams competing in Saturday’s finals were: Aurora Central Catholic (87.58), Lombard Montini (86.84), Villa Grove (86.68), Johnsburg (85.68), Mahomet-Seymour (84.84), IC Catholic Prep in Elmhurst (83.48) and Genoa-Kingston (83.80).
“We knew we made some technical errors in the preliminary round, and the technical scores were our lowest,” said Highland coach Michelle Deets, who was also the Highland dance team founder. “The team worked on their turns and team unity on Friday night, and on Saturday executed the best performance of that routine that I have ever seen them do. When the last note of the music ended, I knew that this would be the routine to beat. I am so proud of how this team came together when they needed to the most. Morris was a tough competitor, and has a strong tradition with their dance team program.”
Additionally, Deets, would like to thank HHS Principal Dr. Karen Gauen and HHS Athletic Director Caleb Houchins for their support of the HHS dance team.
“Both administrators attended and it meant so much to me and my team,” Deets said. “Last, the parents and family members and friends also deserve a shout-out. Their support gave the team that added boost of confidence, and we love and appreciate them for it.”
Assistant coach Emily Wellen added, “This team has worked extremely hard this season, and it has paid off. It has been such a blessing to watch this team grow. I am so proud of what they have accomplished.”
Deets founded the dance team program and is retiring after the season is complete. The list of her accomplishments is extremely impressive and unprecedented in her 24 illustrious years at the helm, from 1992 to 2016.
Deets, who is an Illinois Drill Team Association (IDTA) Hall of Fame Inductee who has served as the IDTA President, has directed the team to 31 IDTA state championships including 10 consecutive years of winning all of its titles at the IDTA State Finals. The IHSA state title is her and the program’s second one as she also directed the team to the championship in 2014. Highland is the only team in the state to earn a podium finish for a top-three placement in all four years of the IHSA’s existence — third in 2013, first in 2014, third in 2015 and now first again in 2016.
But before Deets officially retires as the HHS dance coach, the Lady Bulldogs still have two IDTA competitions remaining, this Saturday at the Highland IDTA Regional Competition and then the ensuing IDTA State Finals on Feb. 13 at the Capital Convention Center in Springfield.
Even though she is retiring as the HHS dance coach and retiring from teaching at HHS at the end of the school year, Deets will still serve as the coach of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville dance team.
Wellen will take over the head coaching position of the dance program next year.
The HHS varsity dance team features dancers Ally Becker, Lexy Hagler, Kayla Davis, Leslie Drueke, Katie Etter, Paige Foster, Olivia Genteman, Kelsey Lane, Hannah Luitjohan, Raven Miranda, Claire Pabst, Abigail Rogier, McKenzie Rosen, Reagan Thornton and Brooke Wilson.