It has been said that to be great at something you need to put your heart and soul into it. The Evergreen High School Pom squad put their hearts into their hip-hop dance routine Feb.6, at the Universal Dance Association National Competition in Florida.
They placed ninth out of 65 teams in the hip-hop division — no small feet considering that the EHS poms were up against the best in the nation, which included performing art schools where dance is incorporated into the curriculum. The Evergreen pom squad has competed at nationals for the past 16 consecutive years.
Not every member of the squad has danced since they were young, something that one might expect from such a talented and cohesive team, but rather the poms squad focuses on dedication and hard-work to make them the best.
“We spend practically the whole year, up until nationals, working on our hip-hop dance,” team co-captain Healey Miller said.
The girls endure a grueling practice schedule that includes two-a-days, practice before school and a three-hour practice after school, coupled with “dance boot-camp” twice a week.
The teams started learning their dance routine, titled “Hardness of the Human Heart,” back in August and have been steadily perfecting it in anticipation of nationals, which they qualified for over the summer.
“The anticipation is a lot of nerves and just hoping that you are as good as the other teams that are there, because the competition is the best in the nation,” head coach Debbie Cooper said.
“You really don’t know what to expect until you go and see the level of competition,” said Karen Weidner, publicity coordinator for the Evergreen Pom booster club. Weidner’s daughter, sophomore Alanna Weidner, is in her first year with the squad. “I have a new appreciation for what the coaches do and the number of hours that the girls practice.”
The girls traveled to Florida spending and spent one day settling in and seeing the sights. Then it was down to business the day before the competition with practice before they competed before the judges at 6 a.m. The girls made it to finals with their last dance wrapping up around 11 p.m. the following day.
According to Cooper, the first time that the team dances in front of the judges is the most important because that is when the judges decide if they want to see the team perform again against the other squads.
But what makes their routine so unique is that the team’s choreographer, Sarah Schachterle, 35, of Denver is on the heart transplant donor list for congestive heart failure. The routine that the squad so diligently and meticulously learned and performed is one that has deep meaning both to the squad and to the choreographer.
The routine tells the story of Schachterle’s life - from feeling pressured to do drugs and get into trouble as a teenager, to her literally dying after her heart stopped beating one day and then the struggle to piece her life back together - all in two minutes.
The girls took the news of Schachterle’s heart condition pretty hard.
“Every time that she comes it’s, like, the best practice. It’s so inspiring to see her dance,” Miller said. “So, when she told us her story it was really hard to hear.”
What the girls did with the hard news of Schachterle’s condition is truly amazing – they found a way to interpret and foster the emotions of Schachterle’s story into their routine.
“Before we went on stage, it was just (the squad) and we said ‘Do it for Sarah’,” co-captain Katharine Eichhorn said.
“I am so proud of them and flattered,” Schachterle said. “I’m a little overwhelmed that at their young they would go to (my life) as inspiration. Most people go to competition and only think about the trophy and winning, so to hear that these young people who don’t have a lot of life experience were able to dig that deep (for inspiration) is amazing.”