Back-to-back, SJO Dance Team qualifies for IHSA state finals

For a second consecutive season, the St. Joseph-Ogden Dance Team will compete at the Illinois High School Association's Competitive State Dance Finals at Grossinger Motor Arena in Bloomington. The Spartans gracefully danced their way to state after finishing in fourth place at the Effingham sectional last Saturday.

Members of the SJO Dance Team perform their hip-hop routine at the Spartans' home basketball game against Paxton-Buckley-Loda. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

"We are so excited to be going to IHSA State again this year! I believe we have the hardest 1A sectional in the state and we competed against a lot of really good teams on Saturday," said head coach Emily Williams. "I knew these girls could do it, but also knew the competition was very tough, so we are elated to have made the top six out of the 17 teams in our sectional!"

The top six teams from five sectionals around the state advanced to the state finals this weekend. SJO finished with a score of 82.40 behind the Unity Rockettes' 83.97 and Clinton's 89.77. Jacksonville High School won the sectional title with a score of 89.83. Host St. Anthony took fifth place and Quincy Notre Dame rounded out the top six schools in the division.

"It’s fun to bring something new, when everyone is expecting you to do what you’ve always done!"
The dance team is the fourth St. Joseph-Ogden athletic program to qualify for state finals competition this academic year. Both the girls and boys cross country squads, along with the Class 2A third-place volleyball team, have earned the title of state finalists since last August.

Williams says there are several elements to being a successful competitive dancer.

"(It is) mostly hard work, dedication and willingness to get out of your comfort zone," she said. "Dancers also need patience, as you aren’t going to be able to do new things overnight. The love for dance might be the most important thing, it makes all of the hard work and dedication worth it."

The Spartans will perform their routine in the preliminary round at the 'Big Dance' on Friday at 10:47am. The top 12 teams advance to Saturday's Class 1A finals.

"We definitely have to bring our A-game on Friday," Williams said. "We will need to hit all of our choreography and technique. We also always remind the girls that no matter how nervous they are, they have to go out there and have fun and that will show through in their dancing."

This will be the fourth trip to the state finals for the SJO program since the IHSA started hosting a competitive dance state series in 2013. Dancers in 2014, 2016 and last year have performed in the prelims. This year could be the first time in school history that SJO dancers will have a chance to compete in the finals.

In the past three trips to state the St. Joseph-Ogden squads performed hip-hop routines. This year's competition routine will be different.

"We are competing with our lyrical routine for IHSA this year, which is a first for our team," Williams, who said her team is great at performing both lyrical and hip-hop routines. Like the other athletic teams the school supports, Spartans are never ones to shy away from a challenge. "It’s fun to bring something new, when everyone is expecting you to do what you’ve always done!"

Lyrical dance is typically composed of movements and techniques from classical ballet, modern and jazz dance. Routines are usually expressive and innovative. Performed to music, the movements designed to express strong feelings and emotions interpreted from the song's lyrics by the choreographer.

Members expected to compete on Friday include captains senior Ava Mills and juniors Isabelle Brooks and Samantha Naylor. Lexi Ribbe, the squad's only other senior this season, along with juniors Kylie Duckett, Tessa Smith, Bella Getty, and two sophomores, Ella Besson and Alessa Anzelmo, will be on the competition floor on Friday morning.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School 2024 baseball seniors