Lakeview dance had tryouts for next season on Wednesday night. Regardless of who is chosen to represent the blue, white and silver next season, they'll have a lot to live up to.
When much of the Viking fanbase was in Omaha at the state wrestling championships on Feb. 16, a group of five Lady Vikes, team sponsor Ann Fuchs and their supporters were at the biggest stage in Nebraska cheer and dance, performing before the judges in Grand Island.
After a short, two-minute routine, then hours of waiting and hoping, Maggie French, Mattie Purcell, Bethaney Schulz, Macy Stock and Kaelyn Svehla were crowned Class C-1 high kick state champions.
The competition, a mix of sideline, game day, tumbling and non-tumbling routines for cheer, and hip hop, pom-pom and high kick for dance, is a two-day event over Friday and Saturday that culminates in Saturday night's award ceremony.
Needless to say, it's a long affair with several trophies and medals waiting to be handed out.
This group, minus Stock, the one freshman among four seniors, had been here before.
Three years ago, they were runners-up. Last season, they stood together as the final results were announced, hopeful to hear the name 'Lakeview' over the loudspeaker.
Results are read from fifth to first. Lakeview's specific category this year included nine teams. Thus, as the announcement comes closer to one, teams are left in limbo wondering if they're about to have the greatest or worst surprise of all.
The girls had been in this very situation a year ago and had their hopes and dreams dashed when their name never came.
"That actually happened last year. They went down from five to four, and so on, and we didn’t get top five. So, as they were getting closer and closer, we stopped holding hands and didn’t think we had placed," Purcell remembered. "Then they called state champs, and said ‘Lakeview,' we were all very shocked. None of us could believe it."
Lakeview's final team score of 80.20 beat out the likes of Wayne, Ord, Centura, Boone Central, Lincoln Lutheran, Arlington, St. Paul and David City.
Teams perform for under two minutes and are required to perform 50 kicks above the waistline. The judges look for such things as technique, height of kick, pointed toes and creativity in choreography.
The routine was put together with the help of Brittany Childress, a dance instructor from Albion. She gave the routine to the girls in November then worked with the group to make tweaks and adjustments along the way.
"They were at it at least three to four times every week. Two to three times per week we met in the morning, and I know they danced together at Barb’s (Dance Studio)," Fuchs said.
"They work together. They were just a great group of girls. They were really a take-charge group. They didn’t need my help a lot. They planned things and kept me in the loop."
Though state is the only contest the group performed at, they were regulars at halftime of Lakeview basketball games all winter.
Even up to the last minute in Grand Island, the girls were making small changes. They waited in the back until their turn, were allowed a 20-minute warmup at 2:57, took the team photo at 3:17 then were in front of the judges at 3:27.
Lakeview was the second C-1 team to perform.
"We might have been pretty nervous, but we all felt pretty good going in knowing how much we’ve been preparing for this. We all just wanted to perform our best," Purcell said. "Afterwards, we just left it all out on the floor. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen."
The trouble is, by the time the girls found out, it was four-plus hours later. Having been through all of it once before, there was no joy in the waiting.
Regardless, Purcell said the group was confident about its effort and looking forward, even if cautiously, to what the judges had to say. Teams can pick up their judging results before the awards, but none of the other team scores are revealed.
"There was this moment where we all just looked at each other and we were all so excited," Purcell said of the happy announcement. "We just started screaming."
It took extra long to get back to Columbus that night, a snowstorm slowed travel to a near crawl. But once the girls were back, and once they delivered their state championship trophy to school the next Monday, it was hard to contain the sense of pride in the accomplishment.
"I thought it was really cool to bring something back," Purcell said. "During high school, we haven’t really won any state championships, so to be that successful in something and bring back the trophy, that was really cool."
Purcell is now looking forward to becoming a student at South Dakota State, where she'll try out for the dance team.
Fuchs is looking forward to year two as the team sponsor. The routine will be in place over the summer this time, and the Lady Vikes are adding a competitive cheer team as well.
Fuchs' record leading the program is spotless at this point, but she says it's all a testament to the girls and what they're willing to do to be the best.
"This has been such a good experience. It was a lot to learn, but it was great," she said. "Then somebody said, ‘It’s your first year, and you won a state title,’ and I just say, ‘I was here to support the girls. They did all the hard work.’
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.