The Stayton Highlights dance team finished second to Valley Catholic of Beaverton at the past two state championships.
This year’s squad was determined not to let that happen again.
“This team is driven beyond words,” longtime coach Robin Meier told Our Town. “They came into this season with a goal. They wanted that state title. They were determined to improve, work and sacrifice to make that goal a reality.”
On March 18 all of the hard work paid off. The Highlights scored 91.33 points, just 0.38 points ahead of another strong Valley Catholic squad, to take the Class 4A-1A title at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
The state title is the 13th for Stayton, which had a remarkable run of 12 consecutive state championships from 2003-2014. In addition, the Highlights were runners-up in 2001 and 2002. That’s first or second in the state for 17 consecutive seasons.
“We knew we were ready to peak,” Meier said. “We had made some changes from our last regular-season competition, and we were ready to show the audience and crowd what that hard work had done. They performed beautifully both rounds. We (coaches) were so proud of them.”
Stayton’s prelims and finals scores were the two highest at the meet, regardless of class. The Highlights’ routine was about risk, called “Uncomfortably, comfortable”, and featured the image of a caged bird.
“This routine, more than any other we have ever done, touched the audience in such a special way,” Meier said. “People could relate to this story so well. It’s everyone’s story really. How many times have all of us stayed where we are because it was ‘safe’?
“That’s what this routine was all about. We had complete strangers, who had no relationship with our team, come up to us and tell us they cried watching it because it touched them so deeply.”
The squad included four boys, a first for Stayton.
“I would say having our four ‘cage boys’ on the team with us was such a unique and fun experience,” Meier said. “They added a lot of life to our team and a new and fun element to what we do.”
Two Highlights seniors, Jasmine White and Abbie Schafer were named to the all-state team. In addition, Schafer was awarded an academic scholarship at state.
Schafer and fellow senior Makenzie Schwarm served as captains, along with juniors Courtney Griffith, Roni Heagy, Faith King and Gracie Tabor.
The rest of the roster included:
Seniors: Reanna Digesualdo and Sydnee Neuharth.
Juniors: Grace Anderson, Elliott Anundi, Erin Ball, Breanna Culbertson, Carissa Holt, Alli Jordan, Jazlynn Simmons and Nicole Witherell.
Sophomores: Natalie Berkey, Bailey Fuson, Luciana Garcia, Emily Smith and Chloe Stinson.
Freshmen: Ashley Bush, Riley Craig, Brylie Digesualdo, Macey Frost, Kaelyn Hill, Zach Hofmann, Jasmin Johnson, Matthew King, Ashley Kintz, Kaitlin Sandall, Abby Schneider and Hailey Searles.
Meier’s assistance coaches are Alyssa Russell and Belle Meier.