Laker Streak ends at Three

by: Vern Uyetake, Kirsta Allen gets pumped up during the dance team’s performance in front of a huge audience.

The routine was funky, flashy and full of hip-hop flare, but it wasn't enough to give the Lake Oswego High School dance team its fourth consecutive state title.

Instead, the 24-girl team took third place at the 2007 Oregon State Athletic Association Dance and Drill State Championships held March 16-17 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Dance teams from Lincoln and Tigard high schools placed first and second, respectively, ahead of LOHS in the 6A Large Division.

The loss came as a painful disappointment to the team's members and its six senior captains, who have never experienced a year without state victory.

But their coach, Denise Allen, knew her team would have to pull out all the stops to regain its top spot after the OSAA moved LOHS into a division with larger teams.

In previous years, the LOHS team was considered 'intermediate' and danced against schools that were moved into the 'small' division.

This year, the OSAA included LOHS in the same division as some 40-member powerhouse teams (Lincoln, for example, has won this division six years in a row).

Allen believed her team could take first, but in retrospect she believes the OSAA should make a few logistical changes to level the playing field.

'The whole dynamic was changed and overall it affected a huge part of the scoring process,' Allen said. 'We were put into a different league than we were in (before). The girls did the best job that they could.'

According to Allen, the top three teams were separated by less than one point in the judges' final scoring tally.

'That was really reassuring,' she added.

The LOHS team began preparing for the state competition in August, prior to dancing at football games and starting its own competition season in January.

'We work for a full six months, which is a huge season, compared to most team sports,' said Allen, who coaches the team with Gwen Matthews and their two assistants.

With the girls' help, the coaches choreographed a hip-hop routine based around a 'fire' theme. The finished product included the songs 'Fever' by Ella Fitzgerald, 'Hot in Herre' by rapper Nelly, 'Hit the Floor' by rapper Twista (featuring Pitbull) and a lot of heavy bass beats.

LOHS took the same routine - highlighted by triple-turns and team toe touches - to nationals in Orlando, Fla., where the team placed fifth out of 36 teams.

'We wanted to be always moving, always dancing,' Allen said. 'You strive to get the crowd involved and make them tap their feet as they're watching it.'

That was the case at state, where LOHS wowed the crowd with its timing and precision. Parents and friends waved white towels and screamed their approval at the girls, who dressed in basic black leotards with dazzling red trim.

'It was close so we fought the fight but we need to do some more work in the year ahead,' Allen said. 'There were a few mistakes; it wasn't flawless, but of course it's easier to hide mistakes when you have a (larger team).'

n In other dance-related news, Lake Oswego High School student Holly Dockstader and West Linn High School student Emily Schroder made the 6A/5A All-State Team. The girls were selected out of about 150 senior dancers who auditioned for the coveted spots.