Marshall High School seniors Jordan Hoeft, Heather Slagel and Briana Johns didn't really know what they were getting into when they joined the newly-formed Marshall High School Tiger Dance team as junior high students in 2006.
Hoeft, Johns and Slagel have been with the Marshall Tiger Dance team since the program began. The trio went from seventh-graders who were a little intimidated about being on a team with older girls to captains for the last two years.
Now five years later, they've entered their last season with the team.
Top photo by Kirstie Meyer,
other photos by Brad Johns
Top: Briana Johns, Heather Slagel and Jordan Hoeft have been captains of the Marshall Dance team for two years. Left from top: Hoeft, Slagel and Johns when they were in seventh grade.
Slagel and Johns were in the Marshall Just for Kix program when they learned about a new dance team forming at the high school. Although they were still in junior high, they decided to try out for the team anyway. Johns said she was a little apprehensive.
"I was scared, I knew it was a high school sport and I was in the seventh grade," Johns said. "You're with a bunch of older girls."
On the other hand, Slagel said she was excited to be on dance team.
"I had cousins who were in it," Slagel said.
Hoeft was in the Southwest School of Dance.
"I was in studio with Ashley (Louwagie)," Hoeft said. Louwagie's mother, Jackie, was the first MHS Tigers Dance team head coach. "I was a little ballerina. I had never kicked before."
Jackie Louwagie said she knew Johns and Slagel through JFK and was aware of Hoeft's capabilities.
"I kind of knew they were all talented," Jackie Louwagie said. "During the tryouts they impressed me. They were talented at a young age and have gotten better. they had the skills right away."
Johns said she was a little overwhelmed. In JFK, she'd learn dances piece by piece. Dance team was different.
Since the team was starting from the ground up, the girls said they had to learn as they went.
"We didn't know what sections was," Hoeft said.
"Or mark time," Johns said.
"We've gotten bigger for sure, more competition," Slagel said.
Hoeft said most people haven't seen a high school team from the very beginning.
"To see where we were at our worst and our improvements," Hoeft said.
When the three started dance team, there were only 17 members total. Now there is a varsity team and a junior varsity team with 28 on varsity and 15 on JV.
"I definitely think each year has gotten harder," Johns said.
Marshall was trying to get their name out there, Hoeft said, especially among the teams that have been around for many years.
And Marshall succeeded in its formative years. During their time on dance team, the girls made it to state in 2008.
"State was awesome," Johns said.
Hoeft and Johns said the Marshall dance team quickly got recognized.
"We've gotten known throughout the state, people know us," Johns said. Johns said that being in dance team also helped her when she entered high school because she knew so many people by then.
Marshall was also a young team. The girls were captains two years in a row because there weren't any seniors on the team last season.
"Last year was a learning experience for us, trying to get the hang of being a leader," Hoeft said. "We looked up to everyone else."
But they took to being the team's leaders. Jackie Louwagie said the girls were all good leaders and respectful dancers.
"They made my job and practice time fun," Jackie Louwagie said.
The captains said they have ongoing goals for the season. The varsity high kick team has a routine to techno mix music titled "Fancy Footwork" and the varsity jazz is dancing to "Uninvited" by Alanis Morisette.
"Being better than the year before," Slagel said.
And as the three girls look back on their years with the Marshall Tiger Dance team, they said they'll miss being part of the group.
"The team bonding," Hoeft said.
"Seeing everybody every day during the season," Slagel said. "The feeling you get when you're on the floor."