By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — With six seniors set to graduate from McAlester’s pom squad in May, the Lady Buffaloes knew they’d have low numbers for the 2014-15 school year.
Seven underclassmen tried out for the new squad Friday at Bob Brumley Gymnasium, and all seven made it.
“Really, the girls, I thought they did well,” Lady Buffs coach Yvonne Allford said.
The Lady Buffs’ seven pom dancers next year will be:
• Kelby Koonce, current McAlester sophomore
• Amber Lenington, sophomore
• Bethanie Gray, freshman
• Lainey Lordahl, freshman
• Camryn Powers, freshman
• Carson Quinton, freshman
• Cory Rubertus, eight-grade student
Powers, Lordahl, Koonce and Lenington were all on the 2013-14 team that finished fourth at State. The Lady Buffs competed in two categories but at Nationals but didn’t advance past the first round in either.
Dancers tried out in groups of two or three. The tryout consisted of six individual techniques, a kick line performed together by each group and then individual dance routines.
Each dancer first had to demonstrate that she could maintain an upright position while performing a split, twisting her upper body 90 degrees toward her right foot, then towards her left. Dancers next performed a double toe touch, twice jumping from a standing position and trying to swing their feet up towards their fists, which were fully extended out from their sides.
A “leap in second” jump had them again trying to get their legs up to their outstretched fists, but this jump began with a run. Dancers then performed two standing spins, called pirouettes and fouettes, sandwiched around a turning disc, which involved jumping into the air, then as they landed spinning into a seated position.
Dancers received up to 10 points per move, as they did for the kick line. Allford said the Lady Buffs use a fairly standard set of moves to test their dancers’ basic dance ability.
“They start with ballet, technique class,” Allford said.
Following the kick line, which tested timing and the ability to dance in unison with others, dancers then performed a full routine. The routines combined all of the individual techniques prior, while also letting the potential Lady Buffs show some personality — a key quality to pom dancing.
Dancers received up to 10 points in each of five categories for their routines: memory; technical clarity, such as keeping arms sharp and toes pointed; energy and sprit; strength and ability; and overall appeal, which included elements such as whether or not the dancers smiled while performing.
“The senior girls usually create that routine,” Allford said.
A teacher recommendation was worth an additional 10 points, bringing the maximum score to 130. Though individual scores were not released, in the past scorers used a “natural break” — for example, seven dancers scoring 90-100 points and the next five scoring 70-80 — to decide who did or didn’t make the squad.
McAlester’s pom squad will be cut nearly in half from this past season to next season, dropping from 12 down to seven. Allford said the Lady Buffs may change classifications, dropping out of Class 5A in favor of one of the “small squad” categories.
Having fewer dancers would also allow for more work with individual dancers, which might lead to more dramatic improvement across the season.
“You can just improve from here, work on getting better as a squad and work on skills” Allford said.
Friday’s tryouts nearly filled the home-side seats at Bob Brumley Gymnasium. Attendees included McAlester students and teachers, parents of both current and former pom dancers.
This year’s senior pom class also attended tryouts, finally getting to experience them without the nerves and pressures of having to actually perform. The six seniors graduating are Kaylee Harvanek, Cambrea Lott, Sarah Sams, Kalyn Pirpich, Kyndle Souther and Alexandria Williams.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.