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Today@Sam Article


Rookies Stand Out On National Champion Dance Team

Nov. 7, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Aubrie Walker

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Three cheerleaders pose for a picture on the field
This summer, three Orange Pride rookies stood out from among their accomplished peers. (From left) Tameara Ford, Amanda Sladeck and Tori Bales were named "All American" dancers by the National Cheerleader Association during the National Dance Association Summer Camp, during which the Orange Pride Dance Team won a gold bid to the national championship competition in April, where they will work to defend their title. —Photo by Brian Blalock

During half time at a football game, basketball game, or at a community event in Huntsville, you might see a team of Bearkat dancers called the Orange Pride. Everywhere they go, their goal is to represent Sam Houston State University and share the Bearkat pride.

The Orange Pride Dance Team has also been seen nationwide, having been named National Dance Association champions four consecutive times.

As they preform throughout this year, Orange Pride is preparing to defend their national title, illustrate their hard work, and be a part of the dance community around the nation during the NDA College Nationals in Bay Town, Fla., in April.

Although this year’s team is full of new faces, with only eight veterans returning, the rookies have worked hard and been rewarded for it.

At the National Cheerleader Association and National Dance Association Summer Camp, Orange Pride won a “Gold Bid,” the highest a team can receive. They also won several other awards including “Most Collegiate Team,” “Most Spirited,” and four individual awards: three were named All American Dancers and one received the Top Gun Turner Award.

“I am so proud of this team,” said Brian McColpin, spirit programs coordinator. “It’s not easy repeating or living up to the high expectations that this team has for itself. But I feel these ladies have gone up and beyond what we expected.”

Freshmen Amanda Sladeck, Tameara Ford and Tori Bales received the All American honors. They were selected to compete against other schools in a dance performance, while judges observed each individual’s technique, ability to dance and showmanship.

“It was such a privilege to be chosen,” Sladeck said. “I was definitely nervous, but I had to just go out there, do my best and pray for good results.”

Bailey Sherrard, a junior, was awarded the Top Gun Turner Award, given to one individual among the whole camp who had the best put together four, eight-count turns in one nonstop sequence.

When all four came to SHSU, they were already veterans of dance. Bales, Ford and Sherrard found their love for dancing early on and had competed for several years. Ford was even involved with the Houston Ballet for three years. During high school they all participated with their drill teams, except Sherrard, who attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas.

Sherrard, a two-time winner of the Top Gun Turner Award, was involved in dance at McLennan Community College, where, as a freshman in 2011, she went to a NCA/NDA summer camp and won the award for the first time.

“Coming out of high school, when I got chosen my first year, I had just come from studio training and I knew I had the ability to do something like that,” Sherrard said. “So winning my junior year at SHSU made me feel good about myself because I have kept up with my technique and kept pushing and striving to get better; it was pretty awesome.”

When it was time for Sherrard to transfer, she saw the potential for her on the Orange Pride dance team.

So did some of her other teammates.

When looking at colleges, Sladeck researched different dance teams and came across a video on YouTube about Orange Pride preparing for nationals. She decided to try out, and when she found out she made the team she was very excited, she said.

“All I had ever done was drill team,” Sladeck said. “I was one of the first from my team to move on to bigger and better things, so I am really grateful for this opportunity.”

Bales came to SHSU in the fall of 2012 but did not go straight into participating in Orange Pride. She said she got burned out of participating in team events and decided to take a break, but it was not to long after her decision that she felt that a piece of her life was missing. So in the following spring she tried out for and made the team.

Being on Orange Pride requires members to be more disciplined with their time in finding a balance between school, the team, and any other activities they might be involved with, the members said.

For some, like Sladeck and Ford, Orange Pride ties into their academics as dance majors; others, like Sherrard, have a double major, with one foot in dance and the other in mass communication. Others have unrelated majors, like Bales, who is studying in education and kinesiology, with a minor in biology.

In addition to having to work toward their degrees on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the four practice from 5-9 p.m., running, stretching, doing techniques, practicing dances, and, every once in a while, having some bonding time.

On Saturday mornings during football season, they have to be at band practice to get ready for the games and later that day perform at half time. Sometimes they are also asked to do performances for the Huntsville community.

“It is a lot to balance,” Bales said, “but when you love something and are dedicated to, you make it work.”

Most of the girls are accustomed to this kind of lifestyle; since they were young they have been juggling life with dance. Even when it gets hard, Orange Pride is like a family, said Sladeck, who is immensely grateful for their encouragement.

“Everyone is loving. It is like a sisterhood; everyone takes it serious in practice,” Ford said. “We get it fast and cheer for each other if somebody messes up.”

“It is exciting. It is different from my previous team, but it is nice to learn new things and meet new people,” Sherrard said. “ Everyone is so welcoming, so that is nice too.”

“All the girls that are here definitely want to be here; no one is forcing them,” Sladeck said. “We are very privileged, blessed and grateful.”

“Everyone on the team is whole-heartedly pushing themselves forward to one high goal we want to meet,” Bales said.

In the upcoming year, Orange Pride has made it their goal to win nationals for a fifth consecutive time, and after their efforts at the NDC camp, they believe it is a realistic goal. The rookies want to experience what everyone else experienced last spring and make the alumni proud.

“It’s about hard work and dedication; without that you will not succeed on this team. It’s about family because without us getting along, it’s hard to get through our practices. We are motivated, excited, hard workers,” Sherrard said. “With everyone being new it has made us push 100 times more.”

“We are definitely bonding right now and getting to know each other. I have never experienced anything like it; it is such a powerhouse team that you just push yourself,” Sladeck said. “We are coming home with that fifth time national championship ring.”

“I think we are on the right track, in the summer we had high expectations for camp, and we fulfilled them to the highest expectation,” Bales said. “ We just have to keep working that hard so we can get the job done.”

Regardless of the outcome of next year’s competition, the one thing that is certain is that Orange Pride is a source of pride for SHSU, according to Brandon Cooper, associate director for Student Activities.

“I cannot express how proud we are of the Orange Pride Dance Team and all of their accomplishments,” he said. “They continue to represent SHSU in the best light possible and showcase the amazing talent that we have here.”




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