The competitive dance team won first place in Division I Poms, and the competitive cheer team placed second in the All-Girl Division I Intermediate category with zero-reduction routine for the first time in SIUE history.
Michelle Deets, head coach of the competitive dance team, said the team competed virtually in the preliminary round and placed first, and then competed virtually again in the final.
“We had to submit our video with our routine, so we took the judges’ feedback, our choreographer gave us some feedback and we tweaked it to make it a little better because we assumed the rest of our competitors would be doing the same thing,” Deets said. “So then we submitted our video again for the final evaluation.”
Danielle Gallahan, a graduate student and member of the cheer team from St. Charles, Missouri, said competing virtually was different because nobody on the team had done it before, and some teammates even quit because they didn’t want to compete virtually.
“It was a unique experience, because normally at cheer competitions you have pretty much one shot to do it. For virtual, you could go seven, eight times, and find the best recording and then send it in. So really, we got multiple chances, so this was the year to really hit your best,” Gallahan said.
Deets said while the team normally competes with two routines, after missing months of practice due to COVID-19, they decided to compete with one pom routine this year, which is a fast-paced routine that incorporates pom-poms.
“It showcases creative pom work, but it also highlights that they’re very excellent technical dancers,” Deets said.
Competitive Cheerleading Coach Casey Driemeyer said the cheer team’s routine was unique this year because they weren’t allowed to bring in a choreographer.
“We used … the routine that we received for the 2020 nationals and we fixed it to make it our own and perform it virtually. It’s two minutes and 15 seconds of tumbling, leap passes, two separate stunts and a pyramid involving multiple inversions and dismounts,” Driemeyer said.
Deets said the team wasn’t allowed to practice until September, and they weren’t allowed to practice from November through the end of January, so they had about a month and a half to put their performance together.
Victoria Lefler, a junior history and dance major from Lebanon, Missouri, and a member of the dance team, said it was very stressful because they usually learn their routines in October.
“It definitely caused us to get a lot closer than what we were before, because we spent so much time together trying to squeeze in all those necessary practices to get to where we wanted to be for competition,” Lefler said. “But it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and I wouldn’t change it for anything because being able to compete was definitely a luxury, because we didn’t think we were going to be able to compete for a little bit.”
Lydia Blaies, a senior exercise science major from Troy, Illinois, said one of the challenges the cheer team had to overcome was not being able to stunt until a month before the competition.
“For a long time, we couldn’t tumble because we didn’t have mats, so we couldn’t tumble and we couldn’t stunt. We could do jumps and we could do exercises together, but we had to be six feet apart, so that part was challenging,” Blaies said.
Deets said she is proud of the dance team, and they deserve the recognition they’ve received for their achievement.
“It’s also something that SIUE should be proud of, that they have a nationals-winning program at the university,” Deets said. “We’re so excited to represent SIUE as a nationals-winning team.”
Driemeyer said the cheer team overcame the challenges of the past year with grit and determination.
“[I’m] really proud of the team as a whole and what they tried to overcome and what they accomplished as teammates and lifelong friendships that they gained — and the zero-reduction routine that we threw for the very first time in school history, which was pretty phenomenal,” Driemeyer said.