Both Gehlen Catholic and Le Mars Community schools earned some top honors at the 2008 Iowa State Dance/Drill Team Championship held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in the state capital.
Gehlen trumped the competition with a State Champion first-place finish in Kick for Class I and second place in Hip Hop for their class. They also earned the Distinguished Academic Award for the seventh year running.
"There were 270 teams entered -- although a few teams had to cancel because of weather -- and 530 routines. This is the largest state association competition in the nation," said Kathy Enyart, the executive director of the Iowa State Dance/Drill Team Association. "The level of ability and talent is always increasing. For Gehlen to win first place, state champion, is a big deal."
All the dance teams are divided into a class of schools their size, she added.
Both the LCS and Gehlen dance teams earned I ratings for their performances, as well.
The five judges for the performance were flown in from all over the country: Ohio, Texas, Utah, Florida, Minnesota. Thirty hours of dance competition was scheduled for the two days.
But the added pressure didn't seem to phase the two Le Mars teams.
"They're kind of used to hard work," said Julie Langel, who works with Carol Kessenich to moderate the Gehlen team. "Then they like it when it pays off. They had such a good performance."
For both Gehlen and LCS, it was students who choreographed the routines for state.
"That's huge," Langel said. "A lot of teams buy their routines from professional dance companies."
Kessenich pointed out the Gehlen girls' unity. There are 15 dance team members including three alternates.
"They truly worked as a team and not as individuals," she said. "Older sisters spent time helping their younger sisters until routines were perfect. They have been a hard working, caring, fun and excellent group."
Stacy Bunkers, the LCS dance team moderator had just as high praise for the Bulldog dance team.
"There performance was incredible," she said. "They boogied their bottoms off, and I'm so proud of them."
The team had to come home a day early because of the weather, so they got to perform, but had to miss the awards ceremony, she explained.
The team's captains Emily Nieman and Corrine Collins choreographed the dances for the state performance.
"They were fast-paced -- the crowd really liked them," Bunkers said.
The 19-member team, including five alternates, has showed great attitude already this season, she added.
"They're upbeat, funny and open with each other," she said. "They have super character."
Bunkers is assisted by Amy Davis.
The dance team season is now in full swing, and it continues on to their exhibition show here in Le Mars in late February or early March. The LCS dancers will perform again this Friday at the home basketball game.