LFHS dancers excel as official ‘sport’
The LFHS dance team pauses before starting their routine during the IHSA Competitive Dance competition Jan. 19. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 24, 2013 9:10AM
LAKE FOREST — Most of the student body is long-gone by 4 p.m. on a Friday at Lake Forest High School, having disappeared with the sound of the final bell.
On Jan. 18, the school’s vacant halls sat quiet — except for the faint sound of pop music resonating from the field house, where the LFHS dance team was holding practice.
Inside the field house, the 18 teenage girls who make up the varsity dance team weren’t focused on the weekend or what their classmates might be up to.
The dance team members were concentrating on perfecting their routine during the final three-hour practice before the first-ever Illinois High School Association sectionals dance competition the next day at Grayslake North High School. This is the first year dance is an IHSA-sanctioned sport.
“During competition season, it’s a lot of work and there’s no social life for any of us,” dance team captain Caroline McGavock said. “We all share a tight bond and have become very close, and when that hard work we’ve put in pays off it feels really great.”
The hard work did pay off — the team won first place in the sectionals 2A Dance Division on Jan. 19 with a score of 94 out of 100 possible points.
Last weekend’s win advances the LFHS team to the state competition on Jan. 25-26 in downstate Bloomington, Ill. Joining LFHS at the state meet are: Vernon Hills, which came in second place, Crystal Lake Central, Lakes High School, Grayslake North and Crystal Lake South.
“Winning sectionals means a lot to us because this is our first sectionals win in history,” coach Nikki Lazzaretto said. “The girls were beyond excited because the competitors were so strong and everyone had the same goal — to win.”
After the state meet, the LFHS team won’t have much downtime. The Scouts dancers leave for nationals in Orlando the following week, on Feb. 1.
LFHS ranked 3rd last year at nationals, and last weekend’s sectional win puts them under even more pressure to do well at the competition, which is broadcast before the nation on ESPN.
Although the nationals are typically the most anticipated event of the dance season, this year the team seems more thrilled about competing in state for the first time.
“To be recognized by the state as a competitive sport means more to us than being recognized nationally,” Lazzaretto said. “When you come with a state title, it just means more because you’re beating other local teams in the area.”
Lazzaretto keeps the team on point with 10 hours of after-school practice time per week during the regular season, and adds Saturdays and Sundays to their schedules during competition season.
McGavock admitted the balance between school work, social obligations and dance can be tough, but after four years on the squad she’s learned to handle it well.
“We train all year-round, so you have to learn how to balance everything together,” McGavock said. “It’s a big part of my life, and it’s going to be hard leaving next year for college because I can’t imagine not being a part of this family.”
The LFHS dance team’s win last weekend comes at the heels of a series of recent victories. They came in first in the poms category and second in jazz at the Chicagoland Dance Championship at the UIC Forum Jan. 12.
On Jan. 6 the team placed first in poms and second in jazz at the Mundelein IHSA Meet after winning first place at the Stevenson Dance Invitational on Dec. 7.