At 4:30 am my alarm went off Friday morning and I threw off the covers. Today we would dance on the Bandshell! The morning was spent getting everyone ready: hair, makeup, rhinestones, costumes; soon we were 19 identical clones getting ready to head to finals.
We walked from our hotel over to the Ocean Center where we’d be having our last practice time before our finals performance. On the way there I perfected my “fierce face” which was my facial of choice through our entire jazz section:
You know the drill by now…12 minutes stretching, 12 practicing turns, and 12 on the floor running through the whole dance. We couldn’t have been more ready. Everyone kept checking on Heather who’s knee had blown up to the size of a small human over the course of the previous day but who was a trooper and refused to consider not dancing at finals.
With our practice time complete, we were directed down the street to the boardwalk that would lead us to the Bandshell. We were there really early so we had plenty of time to stretch and try to relax behind the stage out in the sun. Behind the Bandshell we tried to find a bit of shade (it was scorching hot even at 8:00am).
Soon, other teams were congregating and an ESPN camera was floating around getting footage of the teams awaiting their turn to perform at finals. The camera man loved us. He taped the rap that Heather and Colleen created as a pep-talk and followed us all the way inside the Bandshell as we got psyched up to be on the floor!
“From North Easton, Massachusetts…STONEHILL COLLEGE!”
It was our turn, we strutted out onto the floor. There were Cara, Lauren, and Dana, our amazing coaches; Leanne, one of our captains who fractured a bone in her leg just a week before and could no longer dance; my sister from Monmouth’s team who had gotten up early to come watch us dance; the Stonehill Cheerleaders, and all our fans and family decked out in purple SCDT t-shirts up in the stands.
Outside, the music blared through the speakers. We danced as hard as we could and I was loving every second of it. There was one moment when we all are flat on our backs and my only thought was Woah! The sky! as it really hit me that we were dancing outside, practically on the beach.
I can’t embed any videos from the website here on my blog, but if you go to Varsity.com and type “Stonehill” in the search bar, our videos will come up. You’ll be able to see the cheerleaders’ Prelims performance as well as the dance teams’ performances on the prelims stage and at finals on the Bandshell!
The dance was over in what felt like seconds and we were backstage trying to find Heather some ice and gulping down the Gatorade we had been handed as we exited the stage. We headed around front to watch the rest of the competition until it was time for awards!
As we watched the other teams, who were all unbelievable, we agreed that we had finally reached our goals for the year. We had danced on the Bandshell! We had made it to finals, maybe the hard way, but we were still there.
When it was time for awards, we were ushered back behind the Bandshell and eventually onto the stage where we stood, holding hands, waiting to hear our name called. The 6th place team was named…and it wasn’t us! Every year I’d been to finals, we had finished last of the teams that made it. But this year we hadn’t!
“In 5th place, with a score of 8.767…from…North Easton, Massachusetts, Stonehill College!”
We were thrilled and we certainly had a lot to be proud of. We had peaked at the crucial moment: Challenge Cup. When it counted, we were able to pull out all the stops and fight our way to the Bandshell.
Happy to have just been in finals, we now were able to say that we were 5th in the Nation for Division II!
Then came my favorite part of Daytona: the post-finals photos on the beach!
As we took these pictures, I kept dancing in and out of the water, dipping my toes in, but careful not to get my tights wet. Normally we wear pants as part of our costume that we re-use from year to year so we aren’t allowed to ruin them. I hadn’t realized this wasn’t the case this year until…
“You guys can go in if you want…”
With our coach’s permission, the team sprinted into the ocean.
I remember watching other teams in previous years who were able to go running into the ocean in their costumes and wishing I could follow suit. In the 90 degree weather the team sprinted into the Atlantic, screaming our heads off, splashing and smiling. It was a moment that I’ll never be able to forget.