Going from second place at HAAC to being the team to beat in the NAIA National Dance Alliance finals, the Baker University dance team has shown what months of commitment can accomplish by bringing home a championship win.
"HAAC was a disappointment by placing second," senior captain Alex Hess said. "We just felt like we had a good routine, combined with the talent to be able to compete and win. When we won national semifinals, we were really excited and felt all the other teams saw us as the ones to beat."
Choreographing a routine combining jazz, hip-hop and pom was a daunting task for Hess and her teammates.
The preparation needed to begin the year of fundraising and months of practice before attending nationals in Daytona, Fla., proved successful.
"I think every team goes in hoping to win," sophomore Bailey Buchman said. "Dance is so subjective and based on what that particular judge likes."
Heightening the motivation to attend this year's competition is the addition of competitive cheer and dance as an emerging sport in the NAIA. Dance and cheer has been considered an emerging sport since 2009.
This allowed the team to be placed against groups similar in numbers and available funding.
Head dance coach Lynsey Payne views turning dance and cheer into varsity sports as an advantageous step for both of these programs.
"It was really nice we were in a division with schools like ours," Payne said. "Personal mistakes stick out more in a smaller group. To really be competitive is difficult when the other teams are much larger."
As the season comes to a close, seven of the 14 team members will not be returning next year due to graduation.
With losing half the team, Sunday's 9 a.m. tryouts in Mabee Gym are important to find new members to fill those empty spots.
Senior Caitlin Allison hopes a national win for such a small school, with a small program, will help bring some attention to a sport more people decide to pursue at larger universities or colleges.
"I cannot put it into words," Allison said. "It is a huge accomplishment, seeing where we began and where it has come. I hope it really does bring to light of how the team is growing or what it is accomplishing. This helps people to know we do compete, and it is not just shaking pompoms at games."