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Pitt State Dance Team. Courtesy of Rocky Restivo

PSU Dance team makes national finals despite travel disruption

The Pitt State Cheer and Dance teams competed in the Universal Dance Association College Dance Team National Championship from Jan. 17-19. The Pitt State Dance Team earned 9th place out of 19 in Stacked Open Pom Division and 10th in Jazz.  

“I was ecstatic when I found out we were going to the finals,” said Annie Vaters, junior in nursing and member of the PSU dance team. “We had just finished our jazz routine and had finished… as soon as we hear our names called we burst into tears of joy and celebrated our victory…” 

The teams were set to depart for Nashville and then to Orlando from the Kansas City International Airport at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 17 to arrive at the resort at Disney World by 2:00 p.m. that Friday afternoon. However, the excitement was cut short as it was announced the airport would be closed due to weather conditions as a Delta flight had skid off the runway earlier. 

“Our hearts sank,” said Riley Gordan, senior in education and member of the dance team for three years. “Up until this point, all hint of misfortune seemed little and dismissible (until) hearing the airport was closed until 9:00 a.m.” 

The cheer team had been set to depart before the dance team and had already boarded the plane before being brought back since their plane could not take off. Later, it was announced the airport would be closed until 6:00 p.m. that evening. 

“…a feeling of deflation took over the team,” Gorden said. “We had sacrificed so much time, effort, and money the past five months of our lives for this weekend and the idea of it all falling flat because of weather was sickening.” 

The team had spent months practicing on their journey to finals. They were taught the Pom choreography in September and Jazz choreography in December. Their Nationals practices were embedded throughout their regular practice times in September through December. 

“We put countless hours of work into our routines and had practice for four hours a day almost all of Christmas break in preparation for the competition,” Vaters said. “After the flights got cancelled I felt stressed and upset.”  

Upon hearing of the flight cancellations, Rocky Restivo the Head dance coach, began immediately searching for solutions. 

“After they canceled the flights and closed the runways that’s when the problem solving began,” Restivo said. “I made a call to my travel agent Shannon Brodie at Galaxy Travel to let her know what’s going on and she went to work on her end.” Restivo waited in line for two hours with Southwest Airlines to try and resolve the issue before receiving news there was nothing the airlines could do.  

“That feeling of helplessness is something that I will never forget,” he said. “To know that everything we’ve worked for and everything the girls had sacrificed could all be for not was one of the worst feeling I’ve ever felt. To be at a loss for yourself is one thing but to have to tell 17 girls that it isn’t going to happen is top five worst things I’ve ever had to tell someone.” 

After four hours, a solution was found that took the team to Springfield, MO and sending half of the team on Friday and half on Saturday. 

The teams were able to compete and said they learned a lot from the experience. 

“The biggest take away is the importance of teamwork and working together,” Vaters said. 

Restivo said the community of Pitt State was huge in keeping the morale of the team up. 

“… gorillas are strong by themselves but when they are with their family they are unstoppable,” he said. “I would like to personally thank everyone in Gorilla Nation for every prayer, message, and phone call made on Crimson & Gold’s Dance Team’s behalf. This is an experience these students will never forget. Together Everyone Achieves More.” 

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