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Article updated: 1/26/2013 9:31 PM

Maine South, Crystal Lake Central champs at state dance contest

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The Illinois High School Association debuted its state championship in its newest sport on Saturday, and suburban teams dominated.

Suburban teams took the top three medals in the competitive dance finals on Saturday in both the large and medium school divisions.

Among large schools, Maine South High School's varsity Hawkettes won the state championship, one week after taking the top score at sectionals at Palatine High School.

The team has been a perennial state champion in TeamDance Illinois competitions, and won a national title with their kick routine in 2011 at the Universal Dance Association championships in Orlando.

Their kick routine on Saturday was nearly perfect, earning the squad a 98.36 score out of a possible 100 points.

Stevenson High School took home the second place trophy with their lyrical routine, after coming in first at the Grayslake North High School sectional, and posting the highest score of all 90 teams that qualified.

Warren Township High School's Devilettes placed third in state, and were the only team in their division to compete with a hip hop routine.

"We didn't know if hip hop would be taken seriously," said head coach Sarah Stepek, "but we were proud that hip hop could compete with the more traditional lyrical and kick routines, and was recognized as a serious dance form. We think we contributed to that."

Among medium sized schools, Crystal Lake Central won the state championship with a traditional poms routine, followed by the Scouts from Lake Forest High School, whose poms routine placed second.

The championships took place at U.S. Coliseum in Bloomington, where 90 teams divided into three divisions started out in preliminaries on Friday, before the top 10 teams advanced to the state finals on Saturday.

IHSA administrators debuted the new state series after more than two years of research and surveying member schools about their interes.

In the end, they decided on a unique version of a dance competition, offering schools an "open routine" format, where all genres and styles competed against one another.

Rather than teams competing against similar squads in their specialty -- from hip hop, jazz and kick, to traditional poms -- dance teams chose their style of dance to take to the floor.

Judges then evaluated each performance -- no matter what the genre -- on the same rubric, with 20 points given equally to technique, synchronization, choreography, formations, and overall effect.

"Our committee made the decision to pioneer a format," said Tracie Henry, IHSA assistant executive director, "that we felt would best serve our membership and allow all schools to compete."

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