Dance makes history with second-place finish in first-ever trip to nationals

Hear from Head Coach Crystal Brock and watch performances in this extended video:

The competitive dance program launched in 2020-2021, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the team, spearheaded by Head Coach Crystal Brock, had to scale back its activities. With a semblance of normalcy this 2021-2022 season, the team has accomplished a bevy of firsts normally saved for programs with much more experience under their belt. One of the team’s firsts was the opportunity to compete nationally among the country’s most prestigious and storied programs – and the women came back with significant results.

The first event took place April 7-8 at the National Dance Alliance (NDA) College Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla. The second event was held in Orlando, Fla., at the College Classic National Invitational on April 9-10.

The NDA event is the country’s largest collegiate cheer and dance championship in history, with more than 20,000 spectators, 355 teams and 54 divisions. The Saints are part of Division II, which includes other NAIA universities and junior colleges.

The Saints placed second among four finalists in the College Nationals Team Performance section, missing first by just two points. First place went to Ottawa University with a score of 80.1, followed by OLLU with a 78.32, Calumet College of St. Joseph with a 78.12 and Stephens College with a 76.98. See full results here.

“To finish second was a huge accomplishment for our women considering this was our inaugural competition,” Brock said.

At the College Classic, the Saints finished in seventh place in the College Open Team Performance with a score of 80.82. Other competitors in this competition were McLennan Community College, St. Ambrose University, Baker University, Cowley College, Trinity Valley Community College, Point Park University and Calumet College of St. Joseph. See full results here.

The judging criteria included points awarded for collegiate image, performance impression, uniformity, jazz quality of movement, the jazz choreography, quality of the movement of the palm routine, hitting motions and hip-hop quality of movement and choreography. Some of the Saints’ critiques included adding more solo movements, taking up more of the stage/floor space, including more facial expressions and being sharper with their movements.

Brock expressed her gratitude to her greatest supporters throughout the competition. She cited OLLU’s Women’s Athletic Administrator Haley Holzem, who accompanied the team to Florida and provided great support for everyone involved. Brock also extended her appreciation to volunteer choreographer Roland Latson and OLLU Athletic Trainer Corey Beechner and Cody Rokahr, who is a member of the OLLU Halo Club. Rokahr provided nutritional services to the team. In addition, Leticia Carr offered suggestions on the routines via text messages and phone calls.

The achievements of the team are very special to Brock. “We realize that not everyone can accomplish national recognition in just its first year of competition, so it’s been an overwhelming feeling for all involved in the program.”

However, the team had hoped for a first-place finish, and Brock’s goal is to return to the national stage and take home the top prize next year. “Having been here this year, we know what it’s like, so we will know what we need to do to get back here and win.”