Most teams dance together after winning a state championship – but for the Golden Girls of Francis Howell High School, dancing together as a team is what clinched the title for them. A season that started last April finally culminated in February, when the Golden Girls Dance Team won the Class 6 State Championship for the second time in the past three years.
“After the very first practice, I was thinking this team reminds me a lot of our team that won two years ago,” said senior Becca Tierney. “It was such a talented group of girls; I felt it was the strongest team ever. From day one, I thought this team is special, this team is different.”
Coach Courtney Kassabaum provided the choreography for the first state championship team, and has served as the head coach for the past two years. The squad that took the state title two years ago won multiple competitions leading up to the finals, and went in as the favorite. This year, the Golden Girls surprised everyone – except for themselves. “We went in as underdogs,” said Kassabaum. “We weren’t expected to win at all. Just to see the girls get rewarded for all of their hard work was more than I could have asked for.”
“We overcame a lot of adversity this year,” said senior Kayla Micallef. “We have three alternates, and every single competition someone got hurt and we had to put one of our alternates in to dance. Someone was always stepping up to the plate; it was definitely a team effort!” Tierney says it all came together at precisely the right time. “At state, I just wanted to do our best. I feel like I’m pretty realistic, and there were a lot of good teams. But after our last performance, I thought there’s absolutely nothing that can stop us; our last performance was our best performance of the entire year.”
The Golden Girls’ first place performances in both their jazz and hip-hop routines helped propel them to the title, and both were the result of a lot of hard work. “School spirit is our biggest priority, but we are always working on our competition dances,” said Micallef. “We are always in season! The girls in this program never stop working. So at practice we’ll work on a football routine for an hour, and then we’ll work on our competition dances.”
Make no mistake, the Golden Girls do a lot more than dance. The student-athletes in the program have a cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.55, and take part in many community service projects. They are actively involved in supporting causes such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, First Responders Night, and Pink Out events. They also organized a toy drive during the holidays that donated over $1,500 worth of toys to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Micallef and Tierney have learned a lot from their Golden Girls experience, and say it is something they will never forget. “I’ll always remember the excitement we had when they announced we had won state, running to hug our parents and our coaches, that’s a feeling that I can’t put into words, but I will always cherish those memories,” said Micallef. “There is something special about getting to dance and compete on stage with your 19 best friends!” Tierney says the experience has defined her high school years. “It gives you leadership abilities, working with your team, respect, and you learn to lead by example. It’s had a big impact on my life and shaped who I am, and that’s something I will always take with me in the future.”