Dance team aims to repeat or better last year’s performance

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Coming off a third-place finish in the state 3A small-team dance championships last year, Huskiettes coach Kristin Ashcraft is hoping for more of the same in 2007.

Though two all-state dancers, Hayley Cole and Chelsea Gagner, have graduated, Ashcraft, who is in her third year coaching the Huskiettes, says she has a good crop of freshmen along with three returnees from last year’s eight-member team.

Back this year are Kelsey McGarry, a senior, who is co-captain along with sophomore Whitney Stoner. The third returnee is senior Rachell Jefferson.

“Kelsey has worked with me for three years now,” Ashcraft said. “She’s really dedicated and an excellent leader.

“I’m very proud of Whitney working her way up to co-captain, which means I can work with her for two more years. They’re both very dedicated and very positive.”

This year’s team of 14 members include two exchange students from Japan, seniors Aya Okajima and Moemi Kaneko. Okajima has experience in belly dancing and Kaneko has had training in hip-hop.

“I’m very pleased to have them on our team,” Ashcraft said.

New this year is senior Ashley Bertucci, along with eight freshmen: Emily Coonrod, Kayla Froman, Donnalee Landers, Jessica Parga, Caroline Pearson, Sara Traeger, Catrina Stengrim and Brianna Wirth.

“It’s rebuilding time this year,” Ashcraft said.

“I’m really excited to have a big freshman class. That means I have a large base of girls I can work with for four years.

“I’m really pleased to work with the junior high. I support them 100 percent because my freshmen come out of their program. I was pleasantly surprised with the freshman class. The junior high dance coach did real well with them.”

Ashcraft said she likes having a small team and plans to put 10 girls on the floor at the Huskiettes’ first competition this Saturday at Thurston.

The dance team’s theme will be “Hollywood,” with music to fit and “costumes that get to be glamorous. They like that,” she said of her team.

Sweet Home has added one extra competition, at Molalla, to its schedule this year, which will be added experience for the Huskiettes.

“We had a really great season last year,” Ashcraft said. “We hope to repeat or do better than that.”

McGarry, Okajima and Kaneko are scheduled to dance Jan. 14 in the all-state competition, which requires contestants to learn a routine in an afternoon and perform it the following morning.

Last year, Cole and Gagner both were selected to the all-state team, making Sweet Home the only school in the 3A division to have two dancers chosen.

“It’s a very prestigious honor,” Ashcraft said. “The judges are very critical. It’s a good test of character in an individual competition.”

Also, the Huskiettes will hold a dance clinic for children Jan. 27 at the high school as a fund-raiser.

For more information, contact Ashcraft at 367-5802.