I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed. We worked so hard and wanted so badly to make it straight through to finals, but here we were, a tenth of a point shy of being on the Bandshell.
Our coach got our score sheets and we headed back to the hotel to regroup before Challenge Cup. The worst part about Challenge Cup is not being able to take off your makeup, or peel off those fake lashes. All you want to do is get out of your costume and scrub all the hairspray out of your scalp but instead you find yourself walking the streets of Daytona in 85 degree weather wearing two pairs of tights and a long-sleeved, velvet costume.
Back at the hotel, we watched the video of our performance. We all agreed that though it looked really good, there were things that didn’t quite hit. This, actually, was a good thing. If we had done the dance the best we’d ever done it and still not made it, we’d be discouraged. But knowing there was room for improvement gave us hope that we still had a shot at the last Finals spot. The other good news was that we were going into the Challenge Cup in first. Of the teams that remained, we had the highest score and were therefore the favorite to advance to finals.
After reviewing our score sheets, it was time to regroup. I texted Angled (on the BU team), Vanessa (on UMASS) and my sister Michelle (on Monmouth) who were all in the same boat: they were going to Challenge Cup. The difference was that they were all in Division I dance which meant that all three of them were competing for the final spot against each other.
Somehow, giving my friends a pep talk made me feel better. It was like I was pep talking myself.
Start fresh, what’s done is done. You can’t change what already happened so it’s on to the next one with a clean slate.
I knew we just had to dominate in the Challenge Cup. We wanted that last spot, we were going to have to fight for it.
Up until our practice time for Challenge Cup, I was mentally readying myself to do the dance again, and this time to go for it even harder. The team gathered in the hallway of the hotel to practice corrections the judges had written on our score sheets. I fixed my shoe problem by layering socks under my tights so there it’d be harder for them to slip off.
We went through our whole morning over again. Stretching, turning and running the dance in the Ocean Center and in what seemed like minutes, we were back at Peabody Auditorium in the wings watching BU take the floor before us. It was exhilarating watching Angela’s team before ours and it kept my mind off the fact that we were next!
There was a new energy on the stage when we took the floor this time, we were leaving it all on the floor. No more second chances, this was our last chance to get to finals and dance on the Bandshell the next day.
Challenge Cup is the only video that doesn’t get posted on the NDA/NCA website, but luckily Deana’s mom video taped for us.
This time, I knew we nailed it. I hardly remember dancing, just that it felt a hundred times better than Prelims, and Prelims already felt good. The team staggered off the stage. Heather could barely walk, her knee was not looking good at all. I helped her hobble down the stairs into the auditorium and find our coaches.
I found Michelle, who had been watching, and Leanne, our injured captain who couldn’t dance. I knew just by looking at their faces that we had really, really, really done well. I grabbed my phone from the back room and found my way back to the team. I sat next to Heather, who had ice saran wrapped to her knee and we watched the rest of the Challenge Cup.
Between dances, I squatted next to Cara’s chair in the aisle.
“Really, how did it look?”
“The only way you guys didn’t win it, was if you got a deduction.”
Right then, I knew we had it. Cara would never make that definitive of a statement if she wasn’t sure. She had watched all the other Division II teams before us so she knew what we were up against. I was brimming with excitement, but in the end it was down to the judges, and we’d have to wait for the awards to know for sure.
As Challenge Cup came to a close, the teams gathered in the back room to be ushered on to the stage for awards.
The team filed onto the stage and was seated in the left center of the semi-circle, facing the audience. The other Division II teams were seated in the semi-circle as well and we were all facing the trophies in the center of the stage.
The announcer began with the fourth place team.
It wasn’t us.
The third place team…
It wasn’t us.
For the second time that day my stomach contracted, I squeezed the hands of the girls on either side of me, and I held my breath…they announced the second place team…
It wasn’t us.
We had won, but we couldn’t celebrate yet. The second place team cheered and went to take their trophy. I looked around and saw that I wasn’t the only one who was on the verge of bursting into tears, we were just waiting until they said our name and we could celebrate without infringing on the second place team’s celebration.
“With a score of 9.006…”
Wait…9.006? A nine? We got a nine!? We’d never gotten a nine! EVER!
“From North Easton, Massachusetts…STONEHILL COLLEGE!”
Finally, we could celebrate. I burst into tears and jumped to my feet. I was hugging Melissa and jumping up and down. We were all hugging each other and Lisa went and claimed the trophy which we all were freaking out over.
We were ushered off the stage and around the back where we couldn’t stop celebrating. We came out into the auditorium carrying the trophy and I was still bawling my eyes out. Everything that had been leading up to this, all the hard work, the extra practices, the bruises, the injuries, the cleaning, the frustration…it was paying off.
We were going to Finals.
The crowning moment of this victory was intercepting Michelle in the aisle of the auditorium who gave me the biggest tightest hug I’ve ever had. In the middle of the aisle we both cried a lot of happy tears. I just couldn’t stop.
I learned from Michelle that BU had also won their division, which meant that Angela was also going to finals as a Challenge Cup winner.
The team grabbed their bags and headed outside to take pictures and celebrate with our families that had come to support us.
M-A-S-S, MASS, MASS, MASS!
Then it was picture time. Our team clumped together and held up one finger to show that we had won the Challenge Cup. I still couldn’t believe it! We were going to finals! With the trophy in the center, we posed for picture after picture, smiling endlessly.
Not only were we going to finals, we had set a school record with our score of 9.006.
I somehow got to carry the trophy back to the hotel so it was our room that fell asleep looking at it sitting on our TV.
We did it. We were going to finals.
We would have to be up really early tomorrow…