Athena’s perform at the IHSA State Competiton

Madison Venckus, Feature Editor

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The Varsity Athena’s dance team secured a spot at the IHSA state competition for the first time in three years during a qualifying competition in Bloomington, Illinois on Jan. 27.

The last time the Athenas competed in state, was during the 2013-2014 school year. The 2013-2014 team placed fourth in the sectional meet with 84.5 points, advancing them to state finals where they scored 82.1 points and took 23rd place.

This year, a total of 74 teams competed at four different sectional locations, with only 30 of those teams advancing to state, six coming from each sectional.. The Athenas performed in the 3A-1 sectional meet which was held at Grayslake North High School. The Athenas scored 87.3 points out of 100 at their sectional, placing them in fifth at the 3A sectional and qualifying for the state competition.

The Athenas placed 25th at the state competition, being led by first year varsity coach,  Chloe Penny, along with team captains Audrey Lucas and Natalie Kluzowski. Coach Penny credits the successful season to the girls.

“It was good I got lucky with hard-working girls, I have to hand it to them, this team is unique. The girls believed in themselves and I’m glad they proved themselves right. I hope that mentality will continue,” Penny said.

While Coach Penny gives all the credit to the girls, senior captain Natalie Kluzowski believes much of the reason the team finished so well in their competitions was because of their coach.

“Coach Penny did whatever she could to benefit us,” Kluzowski said. “She would study and research what she could do to help us get our scores up. “She was dedicated to helping us at all times, and she kept our motivation up all season long with her optimism.”

Along with the girls dedication, the team this year was uncommonly young. The Athenas had a total of five underclassmen, unlike previous years where only one freshman competed at the varsity level. The intensity level of varsity is familiar to the freshman, all coming from dance studios and professional choreographers.

“With all those girls, there was so much new talent to the team that we haven’t necessarily had before,” Klukowski said. “All of the new girls were already trained dancers, which allowed us to incorporate more difficulty into our routines this year.”

Not only did the team gain four newcomers, this was also Coach Penny’s first year as head coach of the varsity team. Only one girl on the team had been to state, and Penny knew the girls wanted to make it to state.

“ She [Penny] was very organized and created calendars for each month of practices, she posted daily on the Athena twitter, and created a youtube channel for us to watch our dances from each day of practice. Having such organization and dedication was pretty new to us, and it helped by an insane amount. We couldn’t ask for a better coach.” Klukzowski said.

Coach Penny along with the varsity captains, worked together to  stressed the importance of hard work and dedication to the team.

“It was hard to get the message across to everyone on the team, but as the season went on, everyone realized how great it would be to qualify for state. Around sectionals, the idea of going to state began to motivate a lot of people,” varsity captain Audrey Lucas said.

The girls are not done yet. Coach Penny along with and the team know what it takes to make it to state that they have a young and talented group. Looking towards the future, Penny hopes to hire a professional coach to choreograph the teams dances.

“I reached out to the boosters already for next season and they’re willing to support us in that way. Choosing music wisely is another really important thing I need to pay more attention to next year. We’re going to take the judges suggestions into consideration for next years dances and routines,” Penny said. In coming years, they’ll be looking to build on the success they had this season.