By Lauren Cabral
The Cove Herald
Competition season for the Copperas Cove High School Copperettes ended with a welcome surprise last weekend at the Halftime Entertainment Hill Country Dance Team Championship in Marble Falls.
The 19 dancers, under the direction of Jessica Harris, earned the title of Grand Champion at the event, defeating all teams in all divisions at the competition.
"It felt like I won the Super Bowl," captain and CCHS senior Nikki Schulte said.
Harris said this marked the first time during her five years as director the girls had won the title in a competition where they were facing so many teams, some of them local. Those the Copperettes bested include Harker Heights High School, Belton High School, Byron P. Steele II High School and Harlingen High School.
"They always do well," she said. "What I like most is when I see them excel in things or when I see them be successful because it shows them hard work pays off and they can do what they set their minds to."
The girls have taken home plenty of trophies from the three competitions they attended this season. Last weekend, they won first place in their division and took more first-place titles in the jazz, hip-hop, pom and novelty divisions. They also received Judges Awards in presentation, showmanship and choreography.
Combine that with the awards they won at the Showtime International: Austin Drill Team Festival and the American Dance/Drill Team: Austin Sr. Dance Classic earlier this month, and the girls took home a total of eight first place trophies, 16 special awards for things like choreography and showmanship, and four second-place finishes.
"Really it was just all of us coming together and setting aside all of our differences and our personalities and making it work," Schulte said.
Co-Captain Ariel Obermeier, who was named a solo finalist for a dance she performed at last week's competition, said she was proud of the team's accomplishments.
"It was just a really good turnout. Everyone pulled their weight equally," she said. "You can really tell the chemistry between the team. You can tell we're really a family and that makes it even better."
Harris said the team begins preparing for competition season in December after football season. They learned one of their four team dances before the Christmas break and perfected the others in January.
"It's not a lot of time," she said, noting other teams begin learning their competition routines the summer before the school year starts. But having less time, she said, may be an advantage.
"I think they don't get tired of it, and it's still fresh," she said.
The junior varsity team also won awards during the season. Kira Wright, a JV coordinator along with Briana Brito, said the team won titles in every dance they did at the Showtime International competition, taking first for hip-hop and second for pom and jazz.
"They made me really proud," Wright said. "They've come a long way."
She and Brito, both juniors, ran the girls' practice, choreographed their jazz dance and prepared them for competition.
"It's more work but it's not difficult because I really like the JV team," Wright said.
In addition to their group awards, some of the members won additional awards. Travon Achmad, the lone male on the varsity squad, took home the titles of Kick Master and Mr. High Kick at two competitions this season, which he was proud of.
"It's always scary because I never know if they're going to pick out the smallest mistake, or not let me win because I'm a boy," he said. But though he gets mixed reactions, Achmad says being a male is exactly why he gets congratulated at times.
"Some people are really happy a boy can take home the title," he said.
Senior Jasmine Barnes was part of a winning small ensemble team last weekend in Marble Falls. She performed with fellow Copperettes Wright, Monica Hodge, Kristen Gomez and Jocelyn Carlile, and the girls took home first place.
"Ensemble was my favorite because it was with the people that I'm closest to on Copperettes," she said.
Members Cara Campbell and Erika Julien won first place with their duet at the Showtime International competition, and Hodge won second for her solo at the Austin Senior Dance Classic.
But Hodge said dancing with her friends was most enjoyable. The senior began on the JV squad her freshman year and has been on varsity ever since. She said her driving force was her father, who passed away during her freshman year.
"Since my dad isn't here and he's the one that let me try out for Copperettes, I guess it's for him and to stick with what I love: dancing," she said.
The girls are working on even more routines to perform at their Spring Show on April 22 -23. The event will mark this group's last performance together, and will be bittersweet for its senior members.
Schulte said what she'll miss the most are her teammates.
"I've just grown so close to all of them," she said. "It's just a really rewarding experience, and I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my senior year."
Contact Lauren Cabral at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.