SJO dance team qualifies for state finals, Unity dancers will also be there

SJO Dance Team performs at home basketball game
Members of the SJO Dance Team perform during halftime of the Spartans' home game against Prairie Central. The squad finished sixth at last Saturday's sectional meet in Effingham advancing to the IHSA Competitive State Dance Finals on Friday in Bloomington.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Effingham - The St. Joseph-Ogden Dance Team qualified for the IHSA Competitive Dance State Finals for the fifth time in program history at the St. Anthony Sectional on Saturday.

"We are very excited that the team has qualified, they have been working towards this goal all season and it feels good to have accomplished the first step of it!" said head coach Emily Williams, who has engineered the Spartan dance program to state all five times.

SJO will perform at approximately 1:13 pm in Friday's preliminary round at Grossinger Motor Arena. Unity's dance team, who also qualified for state placing third at the sectional meet, will take the stage 16 minutes later at 1:29.

Only the top 90 dance programs from the more than 800 Illinois High School Association member schools will display the fruit of their hard work, talent, and choreography on Friday. Making the cut for state, SJO and Unity are already among the top 30 small-school dance squads in Illinois.

Williams and the dance team hope to have a large contingent of fans, classmates, and supporters on hand to watch them perform.

"We are so excited to have fellow students, family, and friends in Bloomington on Friday to cheer us on," Williams said. "There is no better feeling than seeing a section full of SJO fans and hearing the cheers as we take the floor."

Fan energy can play a huge part in a team advancing to the final round. Out of the 30 qualifiers from the three classes, only 12 teams advance to the championship round on Saturday.

"IHSA state is a big deal and an exciting time for our school and community," she added. "We will appreciate all of the support."

In the meantime, the SJO Dance Team will spend the next four days polishing their routine to impress the judges. While the Spartan program has qualified for state four times since 2014, qualifying for the trophy round has been elusive.

"State is tough. We will go over our routine this week, count by count, and clean it up," Williams explained. "We will make any necessary changes early in the week, so we can drill it over and over before Friday."

The Unity dance team has advanced past the prelims four times since the 2014-15 season. The most recent appearance was just before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, when the squad finished in 6th place, the program's highest finish to date. Counting this weekend's success, Unity has qualified for state seven times. This is trip number one for first-year head coach Maddy Wilson.

Tickets are $11 per person and are now on sale online at Ticket Master. Tickets are also available by calling the City Box Office at (309) 434-2777. Doors open at 9:15a on Friday.


Sectional standings

1 Jacksonville 89.20
2 Clinton 82.13
3 Unity 78.08
4 Quincy Notre Dame 77.23
5 Lincoln 74.30
6 St. Joseph-Ogden 73.60

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