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CLASSY CATS CLASSY AT NATIONALS

Also see: Equestrian Advances At National Championships

CLASSY CATS CLASSY AT NATIONALS

By Mark Janssen

Kansas State's Classy Cats get a charge out of performing with the K-State Marching Band in front of 50,000 fans, and in front of the sold-out Bramlage Coliseum frenzied crowds, but the Wildcats' dance team earned a bonus last weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Competing in the National Dance Alliance championships, the Classy Cats earned a fifth-place performance, which is believed to be the highest finish for the squad in school history.  The previous best was a seventh-place finish in 2008.

"Performing with the marching band and at basketball games will always be our priority, but to be in a competition like this and place as high as we did was just an extra bonus to the year and very rewarding to the team," said 12th-year Classy Cats' coach Kathleen Henao.

Through a special audition, 16 members of the 25-member Classy Cat team competed in the 16-team national competition.  After last Thursday's preliminaries in a trio of dance routines - jazz, pom and hip-hop - the Wildcats found themselves in eighth place.

"We had high scores in all areas but choreography, so it was special to see the team pull together and make some tweaks to the routine that elevated them to fifth place in the finals," said Henao, who teaches Family and Consumer Science at Topeka's Seaman Middle School. "This has been a group that has worked well together all year, but this time they did so under the pressure of a national competition."

Placing ahead of the Wildcats were dance teams from Louisville, BYU, Iowa State and Penn State. K-State passed Duke, Purdue and Virginia Tech in the finals to place fifth.

The National Dance Alliance competition will be televised on April 23-24-25 by Fox Sports Net. The exact times are not known, so check your local listing.

TRYOUTS FOR 2011-2012: Applications to try out for the 18- to 24-member 2011-12 Classy Cats team will be accepted until April 26 with tryouts set for May 7 at the Chester A. Peters Recreation Center.

No one from this year's team is guaranteed a spot on the 2011-12 team, and each individual trying out is required to have two letters of recommendation, a photo, an essay on why they would like to be a Classy Cat, plus be ready for two dance routines including pom, jazz and hip-hop.

Under the leadership of Dr. Frank Tracz, director of the Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band, Henao said, "The Classy Cats are meant to be entertaining and promote school spirit.  We're not just out there to stand and look pretty.  We want to be involved with the fans and contribute to making the crowd loud and enthusiastic.  It's our small way that we can help the team."

While a dance background is a plus, Henao said, "The first thing we look for is dedication because there is a tremendous time commitment.  Like any other sport, you have some who are better than others, but we have to dance as a team. You can be a great dancer, but you also have to be entertaining and be able to motivate the crowd."

A 1981 graduate of K-State, Henao continued, "Our girls take great pride in being a Classy Cat and what it represents.  We're here to represent Kansas State not just in dancing, but also in behavior and in the classroom.  They don't have to be best friends, but they do have to work well together."

The Classy Cats practice with the marching band twice a week, plus another two days as a dance team, which includes strength and conditioning sessions.

"This past dance competition lasted 2 minutes, 15 seconds of hard dancing," said Henao. "We have to be in pretty good shape to do that, so we do running, swimming and a little lifting."

The team that is selected on May 7 will meet as a team on two Saturdays in June and July before reporting in mid-August for the K-State Band Camp to learn the pregame show.  Once school begins, the focus shifts to the individual half-time shows and feature dance routines.

Once the school year begins, the Classy Cats are featured at all home football and basketball games, parades, pep rallies and volleyball matches, plus some away football games and postseason basketball tournaments.

The final appearance of the 2010-11 Classy Cats will be at the annual Purple-White spring football game on April 30. 

NATIONAL SQUAD MEMBERS:
Karrington Henao, Sr., Topeka, Kan. (Team Captain)
Morgan Combs, Jr., Olathe, Kan. (Assistant Section Leader)
Haley Gamber, Jr., Topeka, Kan. (Assistant Section Leader)
Anne McClain, Jr., Overland Park, Kan. (Assistant Section Leader)
Bettina Carey, Jr., Olathe, Kan.
Hilary Cosgrove, Fr., Wichita, Kan.
Shelly Heinz, Jr., San Diego, Calif.
Hayley Lorenzini, Soph., Shawnee, Kan.
Caroline Lynch, Soph., Belton, Mo.
Justene McAnulty, Jr., Lee's Summit, Mo.
Mandy McGraw, Fr., Overland Park, Kan.
Laura Megee, Jr., Shawnee, Kan.
Kelsey Nicholson, Soph., Lenexa, Kan.
Cayla Sherbert, Jr., Junction City, Kan.
Amy Smith, Fr., Olathe, Kan.
Rachel Stueve, Fr., Topeka, Kan.
Taylor Wallace, Soph., Lenexa, Kan.

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.