by Ryan Lee, NAU Media Relations
ORLANDO, Fla. - The Northern Arizona dance team finished sixth in the Division 1 Hip Hop division at the 2013 Dance Team National Championships at Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort. The team also placed fourth in the World University Dance Team High Hop competition.
"We are really proud of the accomplishment," said NAU Dance Coach Cassie Laughlin. "Sixth place is a great finish for division 1 dance so we are really excited and I am very proud of their work."
The sixth place finish was an improvement from previous years as the Lumberjacks improved on their past performances at the UDA National Championships. Last year, the dance team finished 12th nationally. NAU also finished 12th in 2011 and 14th in 2010. This time, the team came home with a trophy.
"It was really exciting and quite the accomplishment," said senior dancer Roshelle Stulz. "Looking at how far we have come from years past, we could not believe we finished in the top ten."
Long hours, performances at dozens of athletic events, and a great deal of hard work proved that NAU has what it takes to be recognized on a national level.
"It is always exciting to perform on the national stage," said senior dancer Aletha James. "It felt more exciting this time as we were recognized as one of the top finalists. As a team, we stepped out of the Disney castle and on to the national stage which was different then past years."
Only the top schools in each division had the chance to step out of the castle which was the goal of every team.
"Being able to come out of the castle and step onto the finals floor was something that every team wanted," said Stulz. "The crowd is right there in front of you and you are feeding off of the energy from the audience; it was powerful."
The team was given the national spotlight on Sunday after qualifying for the finals. Once on stage, the squad was given two minutes to dance on national television in front of hundreds of schools who came to compete. Still, the dozens of cameras, hundreds of spectators, and the bright lights were not enough to intimidate the well-experienced dance team.
"Every time we step onto the national floor the feeling becomes surreal," said Stulz. "The place is packed with people with everyone watching you in that moment and when your adrenaline kicks in, it becomes exciting to experience."
For Coach Laughlin, this year's senior quartet - Hannah Degnan, Megan Homsey, Aletha James, and Roshelle Stulz - will be missed. Many of them have helped build the program to the reputation and respect that exists today.
"It's going to be really hard seeing the seniors go," said Laughlin. "Three of the four have been on the team for four years and they have played a pivotal role in our team dynamics. All of them support their younger teammates, they are mentors both in the classroom and during practice, and they have even gone out of their way to offer rides and to be a friend when others are in need. This is why it will be hard seeing them go."
The seniors do not look at this team any differently. They too appreciate this past years' experience with their younger teammates. For the four of them, the strength of each individual and the camaraderie will never be forgotten.
"This year our team has been closer than we have ever been," said Stulz. "This is hard for me to say because I feel like in years past our teams have always been really close. This year however, our team dynamics have been stronger and we are all really close friends which truly helped us perform."
As the dance team represented NAU, the cheer team was eager to find out the results. Once they stepped off of the court from cheering on the women's basketball team last Saturday, they instantly took to Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging to follow the most recent results.
"I know how hard the girls have worked with Cassie and we are glad it paid off," said NAU Cheer coach Travis Doerfler. "This was such a high finish for the dance team and for our program."
The Lumberjacks look to build off of their success as they now prepare for the United Cheer Association Nationals Championships on March 9-10, and the United Spirit Association National Competition on March 17-18; both of which will be hosted in California.
"Our main goal is to go on the mat with confidence and hit our routines," said Doerfler. "With that in mind, we want to make it to the finals and finish in the top 5. This team is very talented and competitive and I fully believe a top 5 finish is possible."
For complete coverage of the Cheer and Dance spring competitions, visit NAUAthletics.com.
2013 World University Cheerleading Championships
Dance Team Hip Hop
1. Louisiana State University
2. University of Memphis
3. University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon
4. Northern Arizona University
2013 College Dance Team Championship
Division I Hip Hop
1. Hofstra University
2. Southeastern Louisiana University
3. Saint Joseph's University
4. University of Delaware
5. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
6. Northern Arizona University
7. Missouri State University
8. St Johns University
9. University of California-Santa Barbara