By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Most dancers go into their first McAlester pom tryout with some nervousness. McAlester senior Cambrea Lott first tried out as an eighth-grade student at Frink-Chambers, and she had just two classmates trying out with her.
Four years later, Lott’s a captain.
“It was really overwhelming and really nerve-wracking,” Lott said of that first tryout Friday. “I knew those girls from dance, but I never really hung out with them. They were welcoming and everything. It’s just, they were very intimidating.”
Lott said she’s been interested in McAlester pom since about the first grade. A student at Pam’s Academy of Dance, Lott participated in the All-Star pom youth squad, attended pom clinics, went to sendoffs and watched the Lady Buffs dance at football games.
Lott started dancing when she was 5.
“I remember my first dance recital, actually,” Lott said. “I remember being on stage and wearing, now I look at it and it’s the most hideous pink costume.”
Lott said that first recital was a jazz dance recital. Lott still takes two classes at Pam’s while teaching a third, and though she said she’s been exposed to as many as eight different styles of dance, jazz remains her favorite.
“I think it’s the most entertaining, and I feel like you can put a lot of personality into jazz,” Lott said.
“You can tell stories best in dance, especially. You can always tell a story with words, but I think you can really make someone feel a story when you dance it.”
As a four-year Lady Buff, Lott’s story is one of success. She helped the Lady Buffs win a state title her freshman year, repeat as state champions and reach the finals at Nationals her sophomore year, became a junior co-captain last year and then a senior captain this year.
As a captain, Lott said she sees herself as the “middleman” between coaches Yvonne Allford and Kacyn Haney and the rest of the squad. Though she said Allford has brought a level of discipline to which many of the Lady Buffs are still adjusting, having best friend Kaylee Harvanek as a fellow senior captain has made the job easier for Lott.
“We balance each other out,” Lott said of Harvanek.
“We have two coaches, so I don’t always get to lead by instruction so much. And so I just really have to lead by example, and I just have to really be mindful of all the things that are going on. A big part of my job is to communicate with everyone.”
Lott will have to set a strong example for these 2013-14 Lady Buffs, who she said still plan to take two different routines to Nationals in February. The Lady Buffs qualified for Nationals at a pom camp at Tulsa University over the summer, winning several team awards.
Lott was also named a Universal Dance Association All-American and earned a tryout to UDA’s staff at the TU camp.
“It was probably one of the best pom camps I’ve had,” Lott said. “Most pom camps, by the last day I am really ready to go home. But that one, I really could’ve stayed a little bit longer.”
Lott said she’s enjoyed state and national competitions, but they can be “really intense,” especially at Nationals.
She prefers Friday nights spent dancing on the sidelines of McAlester football games.
“I like to perform, as opposed to compete,” Lott said. “And so getting to perform on Fridays, it’s on a local level. It’s almost more intimidating, in a way, because you know the people that you’re dancing in front of, so you’re going to see them again and they’re going to remember how you did. But they’re also some of the most supportive people, too.”
Multiple students who go from Frink-Chambers to McAlester High School have said they felt intimidated by the size of MHS in the first few weeks of their freshman years. Being a Lady Buff, Lott said, eased the transition.
Lott’s been successful at MHS as well, and she said she’s currently in the running for class valedictorian. A particularly strong science student already taking some college courses at Eastern Oklahoma State College, Lott said she wants to major in chemical engineering at college.
“I want to be able to apply what I’m good at to current problems and find new sources of energy or cleaner energy,” Lott said.
Though not yet sure where she’ll attend, Lott said she’d prefer to go to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, which she said offers a “culturally rich student body.”
When she’s not dancing or in school, Lott volunteers at the Mercy Clinic in McAlester and is on the advisory board at the Youth Emergency Shelter. She said she also likes to read, in particular Edgar Allan Poe.
Lott’s been dancing for 13 years, and she’s been a pom squad member for four. With the 2013 Oklahoma State Dance Team Championship just five weeks away, Lott knows her last season as a Lady Buff is quickly approaching its curtain call.
“I’ll miss having 12 sisters,” Lott said. “You’ll always have best friends and things like that, but being on a team where you all have to work towards the same goal, that’s a unique experience.”
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.