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Shelby Township

February 19, 2014

Eisenhower dance wins national title

Eagles place first in jazz championship

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

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Eisenhower dance wins national title
The Utica Eisenhower dance team poses for a picture following a halftime routine on Feb. 11. Eisenhower won the large varsity jazz competition at the National Dance Team Championship hosted by Universal Dance Association.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — For the first seven years of her coaching career at Utica Eisenhower, Rachelle Kiehle’s teams placed in the top three each year at the National Dance Team Championship but were unable to grab a seemingly elusive national title.

That streak ended on Feb. 2, when the Eagles took the top spot in the large varsity jazz competition to claim their first Universal Dance Association national championship since 2000.

The Eagles took first out of approximately 40 teams that qualified for the national contest, which was held in Orlando, Fla.

With nine of out the 18 dancers on this year’s team being seniors with a wealth of experience, Kiehle made this year’s theme for her team “Just dance,” and that is exactly what the Eagles did.

“It’s just a memorable year. We wanted to do something that reflected who they were as a team, and dancing together and not for anyone else,” Kiehle said regarding the senior class and the theme of the season.

Eisenhower’s championship routine in the jazz competition was set to a song titled “Dancing” by Elisa, which Kiehle said a newcomer to the team had suggested as their song. Kiehle said that letting the dancers have a say in the routine helped them connect to the performance better.

“I try to let them have a voice, too. I think that letting them have a voice makes a huge difference, and it makes them feel like they can really connect to it,” Kiehle said. “They had a lot of technical things with turns and jumps. It was a really high-skilled level technique, something that the girls worked really hard for.”

For Kiehle, the championship is a culmination of eight years of hard work in building the Eisenhower program.

“It’s kind of indescribable. It was really nice to get recognized finally — after eight years of going down there, they’ve always placed in the top three, but they never clinched the top spot, so it was really amazing to hear them say Eisenhower first,” Kiehle said.

Despite the overall strength of the team, Kiehle said that the leadership of her senior captains Kendall Crudo, Lilly Smiscik and Sydney Oprita was especially important to get Eisenhower to the top spot.

“They’ve really devoted a lot of their time to the team to help them. They’re never putting them down in a negative way. They really care about the team, and I really think that makes a huge impact on the team for winning. You have to be a team, not just individuals,” Kiehle said.

With one national title under her belt now, Kiehle predicted more championships for Eisenhower in the future, but she will always remember the first one as being very special.

“I know Eisenhower will go on to win many more championships, I hope, but I will never forget the first team,” Kiehle said. “Just to hear other people chanting for them and other teams from other states coming up to them, that meant more to us than even winning the title, because people were recognizing how talented they are and how much they work together as a team and truly care about each other.”

The other members of the Eisenhower dance team are seniors Jordyn Schmid, Alyssa Hoy, Nicole Haist, Alex Vizzaccaro and Ashley Fenn. Juniors on the team are Sam Droope, Becca Wright, Rachel Soloman, Alex Balsamo and Abbi Yucha. The sophomores are Bella Cvetnanovski and Brenna Noyes,  and the freshmen are Gabi Vizzaccaro and Gabreilla Gasperoni.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Thomas Franz at tfranz@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040.