Omaha – For the third year in a row, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Dance Team has been named one of the top Division I teams in the country after finishing fifth at the National Dance Alliance championships on Sunday, April 13.
The team of 19 students competed at Daytona Beach against other top programs from around the country. The top five finishing teams included Towson University, Boston University, University of Missouri-Kansas City, James Madison University and UNO.
“When the announcer gave our placement our entire team burst into cheering and tears because we were so thrilled,” explained Team Captain Emily Hovdenes, a senior. “You never know if the judges will like your routine or how the other Division I teams looked so we had no idea what to expect. It was an incredible moment that I will always remember.”
The fifth place finish improved on the team’s seventh and sixth place finishes in 2013 and 2012, respectively. The team only recently started competing in Division I after the university made the transition in 2011.
This year’s team featured seven seniors, six juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen.
“Knowing that we had seven seniors leaving the team and that it was our last time performing together really made us fight for our placement going into the finals,” said Hannah Nelson, a senior team member. “We had such a strong team bond between the 19 members this year and we all wanted to make the fans who traveled to Florida to watch us compete proud.”
The team’s routine consisted of a mix of different types of music including cheer, hip hop and jazz. The team had practiced that particular routine since November but had been practicing for nationals since summer.
“We attend camp at Northwest Missouri State University each year in August,” said Head Coach Lisa Martin. “At the camp we compete against [other] teams. After this initial competition the girls go on to learn their Team Routine. These two competitions decide if you will receive a bid to Nationals.”
In addition to their work at the competition, the dance team regularly performs at UNO athletic events as well as events like UNO’s Claussen-Leahy Run/Walk each April, the Back to School Bash at the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Juvenile Diabetes Walk.
For many of the team members, the competition signaled the end of a long journey and the start of a new one.
At the end of every practice and performance our team comes together in a huddle and yells our cheer - “U-U-UNO, you know!” As a senior it was very emotional for me to yell this for the last time at Nationals,” said Hovdenes. “The relationships I’ve made on this team will last a lifetime and I can’t wait to proudly watch the future UNO Dance Team as an alum.”
This year's team consisted of:
Emily Hovdenes (senior)
Hannah Nelson (senior)
Maegen Pruitt (senior)
Olivia Tarry (senior)
Olivia Bishop (senior)
Breahn Copenhaver (senior)
Chrissy Townsend (senior)
Kaitlyn Grashorn (junior)
Meagen Strudthoff (junior)
Danie Battaglia (junior)
Chelsea Vorland (junior)
Bradi Anderson (junior)
Jess Ermler (junior)
Katie Ondracek (sophomore)
Gabby Usrey (sophomore)
Justine Cruz (freshman)
Allie Burlingame (freshman)
Sami Boyle (freshman)
Caitlin Manley (freshman)
To watch the UNO Dance Team’s preliminary round performance, visit this link: http://www.varsity.com/event/1817#ooid=l2YWh4bDqAi73q6aQQsuAbINU-m9z70S
For more information, please contact Charley Reed, UNO media relations coordinator, at email@example.com or at 402.554.2129.
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