Purrfections reign as national champs


Purrfections dance team celebrate placing first in nationals with a trip to Disney

Surrounded by excitement and emotion, junior Kathryn Carrick held her teammates’ hands and eagerly listened as the MC announced the finalists. The Purrfections dance team placed first in the Extra Small Pom National Championship on March 2, defeating the odds of being one in ninety-four schools participating.  

With practices beginning last May, the team had been practicing for more than 10 months to prepare for the competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney.

“We perform our competition routines at almost all basketball games … to get practice on the gym floor because that is the surface we compete on for nationals,” Carrick said.

For the team, the day began at West Shore at 7:15 a.m. with a long drive to Orlando. They arrived about an hour before performing their “Millennial Mix” Pom routine, giving them time for a run-through and stretch.

“Once we were backstage, we had to wait in a tunnel to go perform Pom,” Carrick said. “While waiting, the whole team pumped each other up and gave each other pep talks to calm each other and remind one another that we were ready for this and that our hard work was going to pay off. We reminded each other that we all loved each other and that no matter what happened on stage, this would always be the closest and hardest-working team we were all on.”

The tension of the competition also affected the team’s assistant coach, Stephanie Shaw.

“Twenty minutes is a long time to stand and wait, watching the other teams perform, getting cold muscles. It’s a mental game in that black tunnel,” Shaw said. “They rocked that routine! I was watching that routine going ‘wow, they are amazing!’ The Purrfections hit their ending pose and ran off the court. I ran alongside them I was so excited.”

After their first performance, the team ate lunch and prepared for jazz at the hotel. They soon went back to the competition center to perform their jazz routine.

“Our elegant angels took the floor — our jazz song is ‘Archangel’ — for the last time this season,” Shaw said. “With intensity and grace, they danced. My blood was pumping, hearing their breaths and watching them fight for that top spot. They walked off the floor, and I was confident that this team peaked today. You never want a team to peak in the middle of the season because then they can’t grow. We walked back to our bags, emotions high with crying and sadness as that was the last time this team would dance together.”

Awards were announced Sunday night, so the team had time to spend the day at Disney.

At the awards ceremony, excitement surrounded the teams as different schools placed third, second, and first in various divisions. At last West Shore was announced as first place winners of the Pom division.

“Immediately we are taking pictures, posting on social media, texting [Principal Rick] Fleming that a national championship team deserves a dance room,” Shaw said. “Girls are crying in excitement and joy. I am crying. Thirteen years ago, I was a seventh-grader at West Shore and all I wanted was to have a dance team. My mom took over as the coach, and we started with eight girls grades seven through 10, practicing in the chorus room with not even thought that one day this team could become national champions.”

The award marks the first time West Shore has placed in the top three finalists, according to Shaw.

“When they announced us, we were all in shock [and] going insane,” Carrick said. “I was told my eyes got really big and some girls started crying. We were all hugging each other. Never in a million years did some of us think that we would place first in a national level competition.”

The Purrfections then returned to the hotel room and celebrated by taking pictures and re-watching their dance routine.

“We tried to order desserts on Uber Eats, but we ordered too many so Friday’s canceled our order,” Carrick said.

From starting out in the chorus room to becoming national champions, the Purrfections dance team has certainly worked their way up in the ranks.

“Hands down my favorite memory was hearing ‘West Shore Jr/Sr High School’ announced as national champions,” Shaw said. “I am just so happy that this group of girls were able to be recognized and get the praise that they deserve.”

By Roxy Underwood