The Juneau-Douglas High School dance team’s pursuit of excellence never sleeps.
Not even on the night before a national competition.
The Crimson Bears held an impromptu night practice while at the Dance Team Union Nationals competition last weekend. That last bit of training and preparation is one of the reasons their military march was named best in the country.
JDHS was awarded first place for varsity military at the event on Sunday at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Florida.
“Going out of prelims we were in second place but we weren’t behind by much, it was like .22 (points),” JDHS coach Kayla Price said. “So that I think got them excited. It was right there within our grasp.”
“We watched the video, listened to the judges’ comments and they spent all of Saturday night (practicing). We had this little practice facility and they were in there for hours, going over everything, and working on problem areas in the routine and making sure that they had it down. And it paid off.”
Only four teams — JDHS, St. Michael’s (Arizona), Olathe South (Kansas) and Gallup High School (New Mexico) — of the approximately 16 advanced to Sunday’s military march competition.
“We were in shock,” junior Jade Araujo said. “We heard the other team (St. Michael’s) got second and there was only the first place (team) to be named. We were all holding hands really tight. And then he announces that we won and we all run up to the stage, and we were like jumping up and down and going crazy. It was the best feeling ever.”
The Juneau team was awarded $500, a mega-trophy, national championship jackets and rings.
“It was just really cool to be able to see how our hard work paid off,” junior Lisa Eldridge said.
JDHS was also awarded fourth in the small varsity pom category, the highest nationals finish in that discipline for the team since Coach Price was dancing with the Crimson Bears in 2000.
Even back then, Juneau prided itself on the military march, a rigid dance style first popularized by the JDHS drill team. The dance team was formed from the drill team in 2000, according to the JDHS dance website.
“It’s our tradition because the team started as a drill team and did very precision-type dancing and military was one of them,” Price said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the past in winning national and international titles for drill and military, we just haven’t done it in a long, long time. The last time that we won a national championship was in 1997. So it’s pretty exciting that we finally did it.”
Price said there were 20 team members on the trip. Sixteen of them competed in the military march.
“Juneau-Douglas has such a long history with that type of routine and so we have a lot support from (former coach) Leslie Dahl and the coaches also competed in Japan,” Eldridge said.
Dahl took the team to the Miss Dance Drill International competition in Nagoya, Japan, in 1995. It was there, halfway across the world, the Crimson Bears won international titles in the prop, military and show categories.
JDHS dance now prepares for the Region V Southeast Tournament March 5-9 in Sitka. The Crimson Bears season ends with Showtime 2019 on April 19-20.
Jodi Watts is the team’s assistant coach.
2018-19 JDHS Dance Roster: Jade Araujo, Maya Araujo, Kalila Arreola, Karmen Campbell, Taylor Clayton, Morgan Cooper, Lisa Eldridge, Jaemarie Feliciano, Jorace Gonzales, Kaden Harris, Hailee Howard, Claire Jardell, Julianna Kawakami, Shanen Mabute, Keelyn McDonald, Ava Meade, Hallie Mertl, Tara Moreno-Goodwin, Aliyah Smith, Kuelene Tupou, Emilee Watts.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.