It was nothing short of a Cinderella story for the Northfield High School poms team when it scored gold and bronze medals at the United Dance Association national competition in Orlando, Florida last month. The team scored first place in the varsity intermediate jazz division and third place in the overall varsity intermediate poms category. Aliza Savin is one of three co-captains of the team. “When they called our name for first place in jazz, it truly felt like a fever dream. We definitely did not come to nationals expecting to get first place, but winning is like a recognition of all of the hard work we put into this.”
The wins were especially remarkable given that the team is just five years old and the fact that they didn’t even have a coach for much of last year. Merritt Alwin, another co-captain, said winning nationals “has really been the best example that circumstance does not determine success.”
The team’s current coach, Amanda Segro, gives all credit to the girls. “These girls have a special kind of heart and love and big energy,” says Segro. “They have an openness to learn and they’re really strong technically. But they’re also very close, so they really connect with each other.”
The Northfield poms team is part of Northfield’s spirit program, which also includes cheerleading. The poms program focuses on dance and performs at the high school’s football and basketball games. With just 11 members, the team is very small but coach Segro hopes that the program will grow, especially after the national wins. She says one of the challenges is a lack of funding. Currently the school district pays for coaching but travel, uniforms, and dance camps have to be paid almost entirely by the families of the girls. “Dance is very expensive. We’d love to be able to partner with a local business to sponsor these kids so we could bring more inclusivity,” says Segro. “I hate that some kids can’t do poms because they can’t afford it.”
Alex Alwin is one of the parent coordinators of the team. She agrees that the team needs to find sponsorship money. “We can’t keep surviving off of bake sales if we really want to build the program into something bigger.” Alwin would like to ultimately see the creation of a freshman team and a junior varsity team that could feed into the varsity team. “The girls really gave it their all at the national competition. We were so proud of them,” says Alwin. “There’s so much potential there to do even more with more money.”
Training for the poms team is extensive. The girls practice dance four days a week along with an additional day of cross-training to prevent injuries. Segro says another way to expand participation may be to create two tiers: one team that focuses on game day performances and one that focuses on competition. “That way girls who are involved with a dance studio outside of school could come and show school spirit at the games, but they wouldn’t have to commit to the extensive training for competition.” Segro, a professional dancer who attended Denver School of the Arts, says she’s looking to hire an assistant coach for next year to give the team even more support.