Sundancers win top honor at Kansas State

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The 35th year of the Southeast Missouri State Sundancers appears to be shaping up as one of the team's best.

Earlier this month, the Sundancers won their division of the college dance team competition at the National Dance Alliance collegiate dance team camp at Kansas State University, earning a bid to compete in next spring's NDA Collegiate Dance Team national competition.

But, while the Sundancers have qualified for nationals several times in the past, what makes their recent accomplishment unique is that for the first time they were awarded the Best Overall Team Trophy during the competition at Kansas State. The award includes a paid bid to the national event, set for April 4 through 8 in Daytona Beach, Fla. The finals will be televised by CBS.

"We've won first in our division before, but we've never won the overall title," Sundancers coach Danielle Alspaugh said. "There were 15 teams and some very large schools, like Kansas State, Iowa State, Wichita State, Wyoming and others.

"As a coach, I could tell we were one of the best teams there, but you never know how it's going to turn out. To beat all the bigger schools was very impressive, a major accomplishment. I was so proud of them. We definitely all cried when it was announced we won."

In addition to the Sundancers' team honors at Kansas State, Brook Rieger was named an NDA All-American. Only seven dancers at the camp received the award.

"That's a huge deal," said Alspaugh, a member of the Sundancers from 1998 through 2001 who earned NDA All-American honors as a senior. "Not a lot of Sundancers have been named All-American in the past 35 years."

The 13 current Sundancers are primarily from the St. Louis area, although Tatianna Cwick attended Cape Girardeau Central High School.

Rieger is from De Soto, Mo. Other squad members from Missouri are Whitney Andrews (O'Fallon), Cara Bigler (Independence), Missy Eggleston (St. Peters), Nikki Eggleston (St. Peters), Stephanie Hoemann (Fenton), Dana Joseph (Bonne Terre), Cassie Mora (Barnhart), Tiffany Williams (Chesterfield) and Katie Middeke (Wentzville).

Rounding out the team are Illinois natives Megan LaTempt (Godfrey) and Leah Wellen (Highland).

"We have some of the best dancers in the nation on our team," Alspaugh said. "And it's not like they just started doing this. All the girls have danced since they were three years old, so they've got a lot of skills."

While it's common knowledge how much time Southeast's intercollegiate athletes spend on their sport, Alspaugh said the same holds true for the Sundancers, who along with the cheerleaders perform at all Southeast home football, men's basketball and women's basketball contests.

"We started practice in June. We practice at least four times a week and they have to condition three times a week on their own," she said. "We do three seasons, so they really have to work at it. And some of them get a little bit of scholarship help, but not much, so they really have to love it.

"I'm proud of all the hard work they have invested this summer representing Southeast at camp and practicing for games and events. The team is eager to start performing and cheering for Southeast athletic teams. We have started this year off with a bang."

The Sundancers' highest finish at nationals has been seventh place, which was accomplished in both 1998 and 1999. Alspaugh was a part of those squads, and she served as captain her senior year.

"As a former Sundancer, I was definitely very, very proud of what the girls accomplished," said Alspaugh, who works in the admissions office at Southeast. "I'm sure all of the Sundancer alumni are proud of this group's accomplishment."

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