The USD Spirit team–which consists of the Cheer and Dance teams–finished in second place at the NCA and NDA Cheer and Dance National Championship on April 7 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The team competed in the game day category for the first time ever, performing a cheer, chant, fight song and rally song in front of a crowd of judges and other dancers.
In the final round, they increased their score by three points to claim the runner-up finish behind Michigan State.
Sophomore dancer Ashley German said that the preliminary and final rounds both had very different atmospheres.
“For prelims, we were placed in a stage-lit arena with fans in the shadows that were hard to make out. It really was like cheering in the dark. No matter the situation, we performed the best we could,” German said.
During the final round, the team appreciated a much more energetic and cheerful environment as the finals took place outside, German said.
“The sun is high in the sky, the audience is filled with fellow dancers, cheerleaders, parents, judges. You walk onto the bandshell on the beach and can make out all the cheering fans. Performing on the beach is a win itself even when the placements haven’t been made,” German said.
Making the necessary improvements from the preliminary round to the final round played a role in the team’s success, said senior dance team captain Juliana Layman.
“We took all the judges’ comments from prelims and practiced really hard that night to perfect our routine. We had to change some things up from our first performance, but in the end, the team came together and left all they had on the bandshell,” Layman said. “After we got our comments back, we took the rest of the night to change up some stunts and added some more dancing to make the overall routine clean and sharp.
Sometimes the process of applying feedback from judges to a routine can be a frustrating and discouraging process, but German said that the team really strives to push each other toward improvement.
“If it weren’t for (our) commitment during this year, especially right before competing, we wouldn’t have placed the way we did. Our spirit squad is a family. We may be harsh at times to display the truth, but every critique translates into seeing the full potential of our teammate,” German said. “We love our school and it showed during finals,” German said. “Not only did we represent USD, but [we] represented [South Dakota] as a whole.”