In a strange year filled with COVID-19, local high school students held their heads high and did what they do best: dance.
The classes A and B competitions for the Nebraska State Cheer and Dance Championships were held Thursday at the Heartland Events Center.
Grand Island Northwest competed in the morning session, which was Class B, and Grand Island Senior High competed in the afternoon session in Class A.
Grand Island Northwest dance coach Jordan Stutzman said the Northwest dance team brought two routines, a jazz routine and a hip-hop routine.
Their hip-hop routine earned them first place, which makes them back-to-back state hip-hop champions since the girls won the category last year as well.
While Northwest didn’t place in jazz, Stutzman said the girls performed the best she has seen them perform that routine this year.
She said the girls put in a lot of work prior to the competition.
“It’s a lot of morning practices and weekend practices,” Stutzman said. “They don’t love me for that.”
Junior Samantha Roby said she was excited to perform and show everyone the work they have put in.
“We’ve prepared all year long for this and we have a really strong team this year,” Roby said.
Senior Jadyn Wilson said she is excited because state dance is about showcasing their routines and watching other schools’ routines.
“State is just about all the teams around Nebraska getting together and showing each other what we can do,” Wilson said.
Grand Island Senior High coach Hannah Luber said her girls have put in a lot of work and hoped that her girls would leave everything they had on the floor.
“This is their moment to shine and show everybody they’re here and have a good time,” Luber said.
The Islandaires competed in two routines at the state competition as well: high-kick and hip-hop.
Luber said high-kick is a technical category because the girls have to demonstrate different types of kicks and formations.
The routines must have at least 60 kicks, she said.
Luber said this is the first time in her three years that the girls were performing a hip-hop routine, something her team was excited about.
“They get to put in their own style and portray their own identity while dancing,” she said.
Due to COVID-19, some rules have changed.
Northwest senior Hannah Fjeldheim said in past years, teams were allowed a costume change between dances, but this year they are only allowed one costume.
Another change is only having one performance at a time, while in past years, they were able to have two performance areas to stagger the competition so groups performed right after each other.
Due to that change, the cheer competition will take place today and Saturday.
Luber said having the event only be an afternoon instead of an entire day allowed the team to relax a little more than normal.
“The girls were actually able to get ready together, which normally doesn’t happen because we are hurrying to get there for the day,” she said.
The fact that the competition was able to take place in person is something Luber said is a blessing.
“Knowing that state dance would be in person and they would be able to compete has been a light at the end of the tunnel for these girls,” she said.