Fight to the finish: Classy Cats claw to second consecutive championship

The Classy Cats gather around their trophy for first place in the College Classic Division 1A Pom on Saturday, April 8 in Orlando. The championship brings the Classy Cats their second championship in a row. (Photo Courtesy of Layne Steffen)

“We were all huddled around, us seniors holding hands and the girl on the mic says, ‘With a difference of .2 points, second place is,’ and my heart was beating out of my chest,” Layne Steffen, senior head section leader of the Classy Cats, said.

A brief moment of shock followed the announcement that they had become back-to-back College Classic Division 1A Pom champions.

The Classy Cats entered the final round of Pom in second place after being down 0.7 points to Arizona State in preliminary rounds the day before. The team spent two hours that night nailing down all the details to reclaim its title and regain first place.

“Our team made it clear that … [placing second in preliminary rounds] just meant that we had more to give and that when we went back to finals that we could push just a little bit harder,” Mackenna Riggs, freshman dancer, said.

The team’s determination to win was never lost. Falling into second place only fueled them.

“We were ready to fight,” Steffen said. “We were not going to let .7 take us down. We knew that we had worked way too hard to go down by .7.”

One last performance in the final round allowed the Classy Cats to dedicate everything to its final dance, win or lose. 

“We say ‘control what you can control,’” Avery Eshelman, freshman dancer, said. “We can’t control the endgame, but we wanted to know that we left everything that we had on the floor.”

The Classy Cats again were positioned to take down its new ‘rival’ in Arizona State. In the 2022 dance, the Wildcats placed first over Arizona State who lost by 0.3 points. Fighting to the bitter end in back-to-back years, K-State’s Classy Cats gained admiration for its performances.

“Arizona State is awesome,” Steffen said. “They are amazing dancers. I give them so much credit for their coach and their team. They are insane. They are very technical based. They can do all these really hard tricks and really hard choreography. Where ours, I’d say, isn’t as hard, but we execute better.”

The team’s focus and newfound experience were main factors in defeating the Sun Devils.

“Last year we were going in with no idea what we were getting into,” Steffen said. “We were starstruck that we even made it. This year, there was more of a drive at the beginning of the season.”

The Classy Cats entered nationals with only four seniors and seven members who had never competed in college nationals before. 

“The team didn’t ever make it seem like there was pressure to win,” Riggs said. “They always made it very clear the outcome does not define how we are as a team and how hard we work.”

The veterans’ leadership helped bring the group together. 

“Dance can be a team sport, it can also be an individual thing,” Eshelman said. “We all grew up competing at studios where we’re doing solos and we’re against each other. So one of the things I value so much is that we’re not competing against each other, we’re competing with each other.”

The K-State Classy Cats have garnered more support in the community even as other sports thrive.

“It’s hard because we’re not under the athlete category, which sometimes ropes us out of things, but people have really given us a lot of support in the Manhattan community, win or lose,” Eshelman said.

The Classy Cats will never forget the moment they were crowned for a second time.

“It was the most pure, happy, joyous moment that I’ve ever experienced,” Riggs said. “It made all the countless hours so much more worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”