Baker brings home back-to-back titles

The Baker University dance team poses with its national championship banner and trophy after placing first in the NAIA Small Dance category Friday at the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. From left to right: FRONT ROW: senior Danielle Small, junior Bailey Buchman, sophomore Maddie Kristoffersen and freshman Amanda Seeley. BACK ROW: freshman Brittany Gapter, junior Kristina Shiddell, sophomore Alyssa Staats, freshman London Wise and senior Sarah Pembrook.

The Baker University dance team poses with its national championship banner and trophy after placing first in the NAIA Small Dance category Friday at the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. From left to right: FRONT ROW: senior Danielle Small, junior Bailey Buchman, sophomore Maddie Kristoffersen and freshman Amanda Seeley. BACK ROW: freshman Brittany Gapter, junior Kristina Shiddell, sophomore Alyssa Staats, freshman London Wise and senior Sarah Pembrook. Submitted Photo | Lynsey Payne

After putting in months of training, practice and hard work, almost every collegiate athlete dreams of being a member of a national championship team.

For many members of the Baker University dance team, this dream has become a reality not just once, but twice.

The Wildcats were announced as national champions in the Small Dance category Friday at the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championship for the second consecutive year in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“It was a long few days, so to finally hear our name called at first place was a huge sense of relief,” captain Kristina Shiddell said. “I think we all just felt really blessed and excited to get to experience that.”

Sophomore Maddie Kristoffersen shared Shiddell’s enthusiasm and said being named national champions of the small dance category was one of the “greatest feelings.”

“We have worked on those routines from November until now, and once you finally win that national championship, it just feels really good, and you just feel like you have worked so hard, and it’s a really great achievement,” Kristoffersen said.

In addition to the first-place finish, the team was awarded best innovative choreography for the small dance category.

“The girls worked really hard and we had long hours of practice,” head coach Lynsey Payne said. “It is repetitive doing the same dance over and over again, so we would try to come up with new ways to get ourselves better.”

The team had to overcome the hurdle of losing seven seniors from the 2011 championship squad, but with the help of three freshmen, the Wildcats were still able to build off the team’s success last school year.

“I think (the championship title) was really great for the new girls because they had spent the entire year hearing about last year’s success, so for the team as a whole, it was a great way to finish out the year,” Shiddell said.

For the second consecutive season, the team finished behind Benedictine College in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship, but was able to bounce back and beat the Ravens at the national level. Benedictine finished fourth in Daytona Beach.

The Wildcats also finished ahead of Benedictine in their hip-hop routine at nationals. The team placed 11th overall in the category comprised of NCAA Division II, Division III, Junior Colleges and NAIA schools.

“Baker has never competed in hip-hop, so for us to go and beat some teams that had competed before, I’m really proud,” Payne said. “It’s not a first place trophy, but against competition of that level across many different divisions, I was really happy with the way that we did.”

The team will have little rest after the championship run though, as tryouts for the 2012-2013 spirit squad will be Sunday.

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