Going into the finals of the National Dance Alliance’s National Championship in Orlando, Fla., last Sunday, the pressure was on Commack High School’s kickline team to pull off a superb performance.
The Cougarettes came to the three-day competition at Universal Studios Orlando with a national title to defend, but the squad’s jazz, hip-hop and pom routines didn’t earn them a first-place trophy. Their only chance at a 2014 national championship rested with the 24 girls competing in the “large varsity kick” category.
“I was nervous,” admitted one of their coaches, Keira Keenan. “But they seem to always rise to the occasion.”
And they did. The girls, dressed in mermaid costumes and dancing to a mix of songs from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and the single “Let’s Get Soaking Wet,” prevailed, but it was close. Less than a tenth of a point separated them from Farmingville’s Sachem East High School, which took second place.
Smithtown High School West and Sachem High School North in Lake Ronkonkoma also took home national championships.
Smithtown’s Whisperettes won the “medium varsity kick” division with a routine performed to a remixed version of Beyonce’s “Fever” in which the girls had to execute intricate moves while passing around a hat. The prop work proved to be challenging, according to their coach, Tara Foglia, but she said the girls never asked her to change the choreography.
“They just never gave up,” she said. “They knew they could do it … I don’t know how they did it, but they did.”
They also earned the highest score -- 9.646 -- among all the teams that competed in the three different kick divisions.
It was the fourth consecutive national championship for Smithtown, while Sachem North’s win in the “small varsity jazz” division marked its third in a row.
“Every time we win it feels like the first time,” said Sachem North’s coach, Katie Prusinski.
The Arrowettes performed to “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, and also received the highest score in the jazz category, a 9.518.
Prusinski said, “We weren’t perfect, but the girls danced with such emotion and heart.”