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Napa High Spiritleaders

The Napa High School Spiritleaders are, top row from left, assistant coach Raeme Sergeson, Brooke Knauer, Gaby Magana, Ruby Gorr, Gracie Hardwick, Jada Dunn, Lena Demsky, Alondra Basulto, Andrea Cisneros, Yakelin Pimentel, Emma Swafford, Rylee White, Ava Harrold, assistant coach Alexa Hammond, bottom row, assistant coach Lisa Garcia, Shayley Zaccone, Bri Gonzalez, Nichole Ridling, Louisa Ortega, Carly Shipp, Lydia Mitchell, Citlali Lopez, Ava Tobin, Asia Engle, Lizette Rios and head coach and director Hollie Johnson.

The Napa High School Spiritleaders recently participated in a rigorous summer dance camp led by some of the most prestigious college dance team coaches and dancers in the country, including the University of Louisville, Towson University and Hawaii Pacific University teams.

Dance Team Union, a professional company, puts on summer dance camps and regional, state and national high school and college championships across the country.

The private dance camp was tailored made to meet the needs of the Napa Spiritleaders’ highly skilled dancers to challenge them with advanced technical training and material, not only for performances and competitions but to prepare them for a future in dance for those who want to continue beyond high school.

Many of the Napa Spiritleaders’ alumni go on to major or minor in dance at universities, are selected for college, NFL or NBA dance teams, open dance studios, or are dance teachers or choreographers. Past and present alumni have joined the dance teams for UC Berkeley, Hawaii Pacific University, Texas Christian University, University of Hawaii Manoa, San Diego State University, University of Oregon, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, Chapman University, Sacramento State, the Oakland Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers, the Atlanta Falcons, the San Diego Chargers, the Sacramento Kings, and professional ballet, hip hop, salsa and contemporary companies in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Others are dance teachers in schools or studios, some of which they own, in Napa, San Diego, Los Angles, San Francisco, Oklahoma and New York.

The 2019-20 Spiritleaders are comprised of two squads – a Gold team that will compete in pom, lyrical and hip hop, and a Blue team that will compete in jazz and hip hop. Both squads will perform all styles and lead the Napa fans and student rooter section at a variety of sports events and make school spirit a priority. The Spiritleaders will also participate in a variety of community service events throughout their season and will continue to strive to keep an overall team average GPA of 3.8, though most of them have GPA over 4.0.

The Gold team members are seniors Alondra Basulto and Andrea Cisneros, juniors Ruby Gorr, Rylee White, Gracianna Hardwick and Ava Harrold, sophomores Nichole Ridling, Carly Shipp and Lydia Mitchell, and freshman Bri Gonzalez.

On the Blue team are seniors Lena Demsky and Jada Dunn, juniors Brooke Knauer, Gaby Magana, Yaklin Pimentel and Emma Swafford, sophomores Citlali Lopez, Luisa Ortega and Ava Tobin, and freshmen Asia Engel, Lizette Rios and Shaley Zaccone.

The Spiritleaders were evaluated on a “Home Routine” they prepared for the camp, a jazz production piece that included all 22 members. The jam-packed routine includes advance fuettes turn combinations, dance lifts, and a variety of acro skills with a Latin flare. The scoring for the routine under the DTU scoring process earned the Spiritleaders the “Natural Performers” award. The Spiritleaders had the additional honor of having the two owners of the DTU organization come down to observe the camp and check out the home of the 38-time national champion Spiritleaders’ program.

The Spiritleaders next had to learn and perform three fast-paced routines. The Gold team earned green pins, the highest possible, for their team evaluation and the Blue team earned yellow pins, the second-highest possible.

Dancers also received individual awards. The highest award once can earn at a DTU camp is called the “Staff Choice” award. It goes out to dancers who not only execute advanced technical skills but also show a strong work ethic, leadership skills and a positive attitude throughout the camp. Eleven Napa Spiritleaders earned the prestigious honor – Harrold, Dunn, Magana, Shipp, Demsky, Gorr, White, Knauer, Hardwick, Swafford and Mitchell.

The staff also selected the one dancer who stood out technically and in leadership with their team to receive a medal for “Dancer Excellence,” and it went to Harrold.

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The Blue team was named “Team On The Rise!” The DTU staff gives out the award only if they feel a school’s athletes have come together as a team to push each other to grow technically in performance skills and shows improvement throughout the camp. The staff explained that the award is handed out only when merited, and that they felt the Blue team did a superior job showcasing these improvements during the camp.

“Their positive attitudes and willingness to put the work in really paid off, and we are so proud of them,” Spiritleaders head coach Hollie Johnson said.

Handed out next was the “Technical Excellence Award,” – to Napa’s Gold team.

“The Spiritleaders have been training and conditioning all summer in ballet, acro, pom, hip hop and dance technique classes, so they were excited to see their hard work be recognized,” Johnson said.

The Napa Spiritleaders program is an extension of the NHS Dance Department, so their “season” is year-round. They are recognized by the Napa teaching staff and coaches as some of the hardest working athletes on campus.

The DTU staff closed the ceremony with the highest honor one can receive at a camp, the “Total Team Package” award, which isn’t handed out at every camp. It only goes to the dance teams that display superior technique, leadership, work ethic and positive attitudes. The award went to both the Blue and Gold teams from Napa.

Along with Johnson, the Napa staff includes assistant coaches Lisa Garcia, Raeme Sergeson and Alexa Hammond.

The Spiritleaders picked up their 38th national title last year by placing first in Lyrical and second in Pom and Hip Hop.

Their annual Youth Cheer and Dance Clinic is scheduled Friday, Aug. 30 and has walk-in registration only from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m. in the NHS Dance Studio. The clinic is for boys and girls ages 4-13 and teaches age-appropriate dance and cheers as well as hip hop and breaking for the boys to perform during the halftime of a JV football game with the Spiritleaders.

Their annual “Day of Dance & Cheer” is set for Dec. 8 and is open and free to all dancers and their teachers in the Napa Valley to showcase their favorite routines. The event, created by Johnson, is designed to bring unity in the Napa Valley dance and cheer community.

For more information or fliers, email Hollie Johnson at hjohnson@nvusd.org or visit @nhsspiritleaders and @nhsdancedept on Instagram, the Napa High School Spiritleaders page on Facebook, or nhsspiritleaders.wordpress.com.

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