Team earns eighth-consecutive state championship trophy with solid finish

The Crook County High School dance and drill team, the Sparkles, had their best performance of the season as they came away from the state championships with a fifth-place finish.

Saturday night’s finish at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland was good enough to earn the team their eighth-consecutive state championship LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crook County High School Sparkles dance and drill squad perform at the OSAA Class 4A/3A/2A/1A State Dance and Drill competition on Saturday in Portland. The Sparkles came away from the competition with a fifth place finish. From left, Maddie Woodward, Karli Tooley, Savannah Connell, and Gracie Carpenter leap during Saturday's final performance.

“I think tonight the team was really strong,” said Sparkles Coach Amanda Estes.

The Sparkles were the defending state champions in the Class 4A small division. However, prior to this year the OSAA reconfigured the state dance competition placing Class 4A large, 4A small, 3A, 2A, and 1A divisions all into one classification.

As a result, defending Class 3A champion Valley Catholic, Class 4A large champion Stayton, and Crook County were all in the same division this year. Add defending Class 5A champion Marshfield, which dropped down to Class 4A this year, and the division was loaded with LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jordan Rutz dances during the Sparkles, performance at state. The Sparkles finished fifth with a score of 78.86. Stayton won the competition with a score of 91.31, while Valley Catholic took second with a score of 84.47.

Stayton, which has been ranked No. 1 all season, lived up to their top billing, cruising to their 12th consecutive state championship with a score of 91.31. Valley Catholic (84.47) edged Gladstone (84.25) for second place, while Marshfield (80.56) finished in fourth. The Sparkles scored 78.86 points to edge Scappoose (77.61) for the fifth and final podium position in the competition.

“We knew coming in where we fell,” Estes said. “With four current state champions all going against each other it was just tough. We hadn’t seen Scappoose or Astoria yet, and there was always a chance that either one of those teams was going to knock us out of the top five.”

In addition to the top-five team finish, a pair of Crook County dancers (seniors Karisa Merill and Maressa Milat) qualified for the 19-member All-State squad.

“I’m extremely happy,” Merrill said. “We started off really rough at the beginning of the year and our team has made so much progress. And I’m really excited about being All-State. It’s something that I’ve always looked up to and been excited about so to be able to do that is really humbling and exciting.”

Milat agreed.

“I think this was our best performance,” she said. “We’ve put in a lot of hours, but I think we became more of a team when we got really emotional. And I’m excited about being All-State. There were over 100 seniors and only 19 got it.”

Making the All-State squad was made even more difficult because the team included not just 4A competition, but teams from the Class 6A/5A large team competition as well as members of the Class 6A/5A show teams.

In addition to Stayton, other state champions who were crowned during the week included Gresham (6A/5A large, 83.61), Lake Oswego (6A intermediate, 88.17), Sunset (6A small, 85.44), South Albany (5A intermediate, 83.11), Silverton (5A small, 79.61), and Parkrose (show, 91.81).

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