They did it, they finally did it – and not once but twice.
For the first time since the Wyoming State Spirit Competition was reduced to just two classes, 3A and 4A, forcing smaller schools to compete against larger schools, the Lovell High School Dance Team captured first place in the competition, and they were matched by the Lovell Cheerleading Team with another first-place trophy in the competition held last Wednesday, March 12, at the Casper Events Center.
Lovell topped the field in the Hip Hop Dance category, with the competition being divided into two categories this year for the first time – hip hop and jazz. Lovell defeated nemesis Lander by nearly three points after finishing second at State Dance in four out of the last five years, placing just behind Lander in each of the last two seasons and tying with Lander for second behind Jackson three years ago.
The Lovell dancers – seniors Jordan Harper, Chelby Lewis and Ashley Steenbakkers, junior Whitney Grant, sophomores Heather Bartling, Emilee Bryson, Amber Mayes and Tori Aiken and freshmen Kaitlyn Grant and Mya Meier – scored 84 points in Hip Hop to defeat Lander with 81.333 and Star Valley with 81. Jackson was fourth with 77.167 points, followed by Kemmerer with 75.5 points, Wheatland 69.667 and Lyman 67.833.
Lovell placed fourth in Jazz Dance with 78.883 points, finishing behind first-place Lander with 83.167 points, Jackson with 82.333 and Star Valley with 81.5. Lovell finished above Lyman and Wheatland with 69.5 points each, and Powell brought up the rear with 67.833 points.
Performing the jazz routine were Harper, Lewis, Steenbakkers, Whitney Grant, Bartling and Kaitlyn Grant.
“Our girls are not allowed to watch the performances before them, so we had no idea how anyone else looked or what they brought this year, but I knew they hit it,” said second-year coach Sara Green of her team’s hip hop routine. “It’s the best I’ve seen them perform.
“When they announced that Lander was second, we looked at each other and knew right away that we had won. It was a great feeling, not only for the seniors but for everyone. The freshmen had big shoes to fill. To finish first is a great accomplishment because we worked really hard.”
Green said the team enjoyed both the jazz and the hip hot routines but really took to the hip hop.
“We went over (practiced) a lot of emotional connection with each routine,” she said. “We practiced our attitude and facials very hard. We were critiqued on that last year and used that as motivation for this year. It was something we needed to work harder on, so we did.”
Some teams work for six or seven months on their state routine, but Green prefers to start working on the state dances in late December, noting, “I don’t want them to wear out and get tired of it, so we don’t learn it until December.”
She added she wants the routine to look fresh and for the team to peak at the right time. And did they peak?
“They did it, yes they did,” she said.
Green choreographed the hip hop routine herself, and it clearly resonated with the judges.
“The judges liked our masculine approach, which was a rare thing at State. A lot of people chose to go in another direction,” she said. “They loved our shirts and Kaitlyn’s feature at the end (a slow motion back walkover).
“It was a great feeling to help them accomplish this when they were second for so many years. It was a nice feeling knowing we placed first and by so many points, too.”
Lovell had the second-highest score among the 17 hip hop routines, with only Casper Kelly Walsh scoring higher.
The Lovell Cheer Team captured first place in the 3A Cheer Non-stunt category, topping the 14-team field with 70.833 points and beating out Star Valley with 70 points, Douglas with 67.333 points and Lyman with 66.333 points.
Rocky Mountain and Powell tied for fifth place with 59 points and were followed by Rawlins with 58.33 points, Mountain View with 56.167 points, Cody 55.5 points, Thermopolis 51.5, Burlington 49, Worland 41.833, Big Piney 39.5 and Cokeville 39.167.
It was Lovell’s first 3A cheerleading title and the first for the school since winning three consecutive 2A titles from 1998 through 2000.
Team members are seniors Stephanie Allred, Chelby Lewis, Camille Ohman and Lauren Stewart and sophomores Ashton Dickson and Shandelle Allred.
“It was awesome,” said sixth-year coach Minda Ohman. “Apparently the judges liked what they saw, but it was very, very exciting. We knew the girls were talented, but you go into competition not knowing what the judges are looking for exactly. It’s different every year.”
Ohman said the squad rose to the occasion, executing the best performance of the routine to date.
“On the scoring sheets for the cheer portion, their execution for the crowd and their use of signs and the megaphone, they increased their score (from last year) by 11 points,” Ohman said. “They were just on. They did such a good job.
“The routine has strong motions and is precise. They were not off at all. There was one little blip. They beat Star Valley by .8, but they (Lovell) actually had a five-point deduction (for stepping on a sign), which is crazy (to score so high with that). They scored so high in everything that they were still in first place.”
Ohman noted that her squad had the top overall non-stunt cheer score of the day, topping 4A winner Green River.
“It was just incredible,” Ohman said. “They did the best they could have done, and then some.”
Four Lovell students were selected for the all-class Wyoming All-State Dance and Cheerleading teams after a selection process that took place the first week in March. Competitors were scheduled to travel to Casper for tryouts in late February, but a winter storm prevented many from making the trip, so hopefuls were judged via DVDs submitted to all-state judges.
The winners were announced on Sunday, March 9.
According to Coach Green, 57 dancers tried out and 14 were selected, including three from Lovell. Whitney Grant placed second out of the 57 competitors from all classes, Ashley Steenbakkers placed eighth and Jordan Harper was 10th.
“I sent three and all three made it,” Green said.
As for the all-state cheerleading squad, there were 65 who tried out and 17 were selected. Chelby Lewis placed fourth overall to be selected for the team.
“All-state tryouts combine 2A, 3A and 4A, so our girls should be proud. I know I am,” Green said. “To make State you must have an 80 percent average score or above.”
By David Peck