The Classy Cats flew to the sunshine state over the weekend and danced home with the Division 1A Pom National Championship from the College Classic National Invitation.
“We got seeded in the rankings really well, and it was just special to see that the judges ranked us like that,” Emmy Bidnick, Classy Cat team captain and graduate student in accounting, said.
Members of the dance team grasped each other with anticipation ahead of their placement on April 10, waiting for the winning announcements.
“We were so excited. You’re all holding hands waiting for the moment and just to hear the lineup … we were up against some really, like really, amazing teams and some that I had followed for a while,” Addie Keith, freshman in kinesiology, said.
The team finished 0.3 points ahead of second-place Arizona State on the 100-point scale in the final competition. After leading the scores through preliminaries, Keith and the rest of the team knew they had won after hearing the second-place announcement.
“We were waiting for them to announce the second place,” Keith said. “Once they did, we were just so excited and so proud of what we had accomplished and everything, and it was just such a crazy feeling. It was something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Even though the team knew they had won, it took a moment for the win to sink in.
“I think we were all in shock and disbelief,” head coach Sara Heptig said. “And it was just, I think every emotion … there were a lot of tears of joy.”
Heptig competed in two national championships as a Classy Cat from 1999 to 2003.
“You could just see their eyes light up and the tears start to fall. And that is a moment that we will never ever forget,” Heptig said. “I couldn’t have asked for any more as a coach. They left it all out there. They were absolutely fantastic.”
Prelims took place on Saturday, with finals on Sunday. Twenty-one of the 24 Classy Cats attended nationals as part of Division 1A — the highest level of competition — for both pom and jazz. The Classy Cats competed against six other teams in the pom division and 13 in the jazz division.
“The first night we were there, I think we practiced for six hours just trying to get everything down and made sure we had it right,” Bidnick said. “We tweaked the things that needed to be tweaked, and we perfected the choreography. The next day, we got up really early to get onto a performance floor to make sure we had everything just right. That set us up to go into prelims on Saturday.”
The team started honing its craft as basketball season ended, practicing for three hours a day, four days a week.
“My teammates, we all put in so much hard work and time the past few months preparing, and it was just such a feeling of accomplishment and knowing that all of our work was worth it,” Jenna Gillespie, sophomore in business administration, said. “It also has been long hours, hard practices. And I mean that comes with injuries, real blood, sweat, tears — as cliche as it sounds.”
After the competition, members of the group realized that this specific team just had some of its lasts as a group, as next year will bring new people, routines and opportunities.
“Our last practice, our last trip and our last huddle — all of the lasts really hit at once for this team, and that made it so much more emotional, but also that much more memorable,” Bidnick said. “It was an incredible experience. I couldn’t have asked for anything better, but what made it so surreal, was that this year was our team’s last chance to achieve our goal.”
Classy Cats auditions are coming up at the end of April, and Heptig is already working towards the national championship for next year.
“We are already ready to begin brainstorming for what our routines will be, our choreography — you know, all that stuff will be. I think having gone through it this year, we’re going to look at being able to start preparing earlier,” Heptig said. “Coming back [and] trying to defend the title is going to be a whole other story. So, I think that’s going to help elevate our intensity, our work ethic, our discipline earlier in the season.”