by Gabriella DePinho, News Editor
On a Sunday without a basketball game to be at, the Jasper Dancers headed to Westfield State University to compete in the Universal Dance Association’s New England Dance Championship. The dancers placed first in division one hip-hop and second in division one jazz, despite this competition being the first time the team ever competed with a jazz routine.
Coach Kaitlyn Marquette signed the team up for the Feb. 17th competition back in October and spent the ensuing months preparing the team.
“It falls under the varsity umbrella so there’s UDA, NDA, a few other competitions and we didn’t have a basketball game that day so I thought ‘awesome, let’s take advantage, let’s go to this competition,’” said Marquette.
The team’s preparation for the competition was fairly similar to their preparation for the national championship. They learned the dances in November and December and spent the time leading up to the competition cleaning them up and running the routines over and over again.
This was the team’s first time competing in a regional competition like this one.
Marquette said, “The atmosphere at the competition was intense. There were… 20 plus other college teams there. We’ve gone to local competitions in the past but they’ve been at high schools and there’s maybe only two or three other colleges there so this was a really big deal for us to actually be competing against what we’re going to be competing against at nationals.”
Sophomore chemical engineering major and dance team e-board member, Meghan Walker, found the team’s energy to be what carried them through the competition’s intensity.
“I just think the entire day, we just had such great energy. We had to wake up really early and get ready but everybody was in such a good mindset,” said Walker. “Even the entire way to the competition, which was a long drive, we were all up and having fun and getting energized and I think that’s what carried us throughout the day because right before we went to the mat, we talked and we said ‘we know what we need to do and we’re here and we’re ready and let’s just do it.’”
Marquette echoed Walker’s sentiment of the team’s drive the day of the competition.
“The girls stayed focused, they didn’t let the other teams distract them,” said Marquette. “They just went out there and did what they had to do.”
Junior civil engineering major Alyssa Pollastro also realized that the other teams could have intimidated them but that the team was able to block them out.
“We didn’t let the intimidation of the other teams get to us. We just knew what we needed to do going into and didn’t let the other teams affect us,” said Pollastro.
Both the coach and the team knew they trained hard but found the team placing so highly in jazz to be a complete surprise.
Marquette said, “[Placing for jazz] was a surprise, in the sense that we’ve never done a jazz dance at competition before so I didn’t know where we were going to fall. I knew they looked great after they came off of the floor but because we’ve never done a jazz dance, I had no expectations whatsoever.
”We didn’t know where we were going to place. We have the technique, we have the capabilities of performing and doing great but we didn’t know a month and a half before nationals just how it was going to work out for us and it ended up being in our favor,” said Pollastro.
Placing in both categories was ultimately rewarding for the team.
“We were up against teams that we’re going to be up against at nationals, so to know that you’re on or past their level is such a rewarding feeling,” said Marquette.
“We all just went out there and gave it our all and this is all we could have hoped for,” said Pollastro.
For now, the team is relishing in their accomplishment, practicing hard and looking forward to giving their all at nationals.