Lakers defend their title, win a second straight first place at OSAA State Dance and Drill Championship
by: submitted photo

When the '80s classic 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' pounded out of the speakers at Memorial Coliseum Saturday, the Laker Dancers knew they had done it again.

The girls celebrated their first-place win for the second year in a row to the music that had accompanied their dance.

'We were all really nervous,' said senior captain Samantha Liebreich. 'Our coaches kept telling us all year that it is hard work to earn a championship - which we did last year, but that it is even harder to keep one. We knew that in order to win again we would have to give a perfect performance. Not only once, but twice.'

Lakeridge High School dance team took third place in the state tournament.

Making the all-state team at the tournament were the Lakers' Meredith Dana and the Pacers' Kylee Helmke.

The championships began with a preliminary round on Friday night where teams must score an average score of 65 (on a 100-point scale) to advance to the finals night, which is held on Saturday. Awards are based on the averaged score of both nights combined.

'We knew that we had to come out Friday night with a bang - nail our turns, hit our formations and be spot on with timing and projection,' says Liebreich. 'We had to set ourselves up in the best situation that we could so that when we showed up on Saturday everything was in place and all we had to do was finish and we'd have it in the bag.'

The team not only came out with a bang but they executed everything almost flawlessly, including their turns scoring a 92 (out of 100) in technique - the highest technique score awarded during the weekend.

'The best feeling was right when we got off the floor,' said senior captain Morgan Nantz. 'We all hugged each other and fell down on the floor in exhaustion, knowing that we did the best we could and gave the performance of a lifetime. It felt amazing!'

The Laker Dancers have not only had an award-winning season, bringing home two first place awards in the Jazz and Pom divisions at both their fall regional competition at Clackamas High School and the DDCA Oregon Fall Championships this past December, but they also placed first at both local regional competitions this winter at Tigard and Centennial high schools. With another state title earned this past weekend, the Laker Dancers have now been undefeated for two straight years in Oregon.

'What makes our team different from other teams is that we are inspired by the college and high school national championship teams. We set our standards extremely high and have coaches that push us to be the best,' said senior captain Meredith Dana. 'We are expected to perform with the same technical ability and execution as the best teams in the nation. By raising our program to such a high standard, we get amazing results.'

The Laker Dancers, coached by Kendall Shepherd and Hayley DuLong, danced to Bonnie Tyler's classic '80s rock ballad 'Total Eclipse of the Heart.' The routine was choreographed by the coaches and two choreographers from Minnesota, Toni Gabrielli and Stacey Weyendt. The team earned the highest choreography score, as well as the highest overall score of all the 5A and 6A Dance and Drill Teams in the state.

'I am just so extremely proud of this year's team. They wanted it from day one and have worked hard every single day to make this dream of their's a reality,' said Kendall. 'Hayley and I did everything we could to make sure that they not only had a great routine but that they were well-trained, prepared, confident and ready. I trusted going into this weekend we had a great shot as long as they executed. After they hit that ending pose during (the) first round, I knew they had done it. They were absolutely incredible!'

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