Competition day for the Kelly Walsh Dance Team starts at 8 a.m. at senior Raquel Miner’s house, where 26 girls eat breakfast, send snapchats, braid hair, giggle over TikToks and put on makeup around a large wood table. Moms and former dancers hover nearby, helping in any way they can. The smell of caffeine and hairspray matches the excitement in the air. Today is the State Spirit Competition.
Even though 11 girls are competing in each dance, the whole team gets ready together. They will spend the entire day together as well. At 9:30 they being to paint “Go KWDT” on all the cars driving to the Ford Wyoming Center. At 10 a.m., they pack into the cars, pump their music and take off.
“Get in your twos, heads held high,” senior Arianne Burback yells out to the team, “Walk with pride!” And just like that, the Kelly Walsh Dance Team enters the building. They drop their bags, makeup, mirrors, snacks and costume bins in the dressing room and head to the floor to mark both their dances. As soon as they finish the jazz routine, the team heads back to their locker room and picks up where they left off. Some sit on the floor and finish braids, others change out the white laces of their shoes for neon yellow to match their hip hop outfits, and the rest busy themselves with chatting and social media to distract from the nerves. They snack on cookies, power bars and Gatorade. At lunch, some moms bring in chips, sandwiches and vegetables. When silver glitter goes missing, one coach calls her mom to pick up the extras she bought the night before.
In one of the final huddles before taking the stage, one of the seniors tells the team, “Trust yourself, it’s just muscle memory.” Co-captain Alexis Spiegelberg gives final teary-eyed advice, and Haley Adkins leads the team in a prayer.
At 4:52 p.m., they step out for the jazz number in maroon mesh body suits dotted in sparkles. For all the anticipation and nerves, their routine is over is just under three minutes, going off without a hitch. They run off the stage screaming and embracing, before being quickly shooed back to the dressing room by their coaches to change and get ready for the hip hop routine. The nerves are replaced with excitement. One dance down, one to go.
In less than two hours, they are out again performing their hip hop routine. The routine goes so well it brings head coach Tiffani Stowe to tears. Then the wait begins. For nearly two hours, all they can do it hope. Then it’s time for results. The team holds hands and waits. When they hear “Class 4A jazz dance, third place: Rock Springs High School,” there’s a collective gasp. After “Class 4A jazz dance runner-up: Evanston High School,” the tears start flowing. And then it’s official, “Class 4A jazz dance state champion: Kelly Walsh High School.”
The girls, coaches and fans erupt into a sea of tears, screams, hugs and chaos. One down, one to go. As the emcee announces the top teams in class 4A hip hop dance and they still don’t hear their names, it begins to sink in. They’ve won. The girls begin to cry and scream again.
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