Dance: Ponto makes competitive team at Illinois State University

Rochelle senior Taylor Ponto will be continuing her academics and her dance career at Illinois State University next year. (Photo by Marcy DeLille)

Rochelle senior planning to study English education

A two-hour clinic and four-hour tryout session had Rochelle senior Taylor Ponto anxiously awaiting whether or not she would be dancing for the Illinois State University team next year.

Sitting in a hallway with several other athletes hoping to make the competitive team, Ponto’s fears quickly subsided when she learned of the final results, which revealed that she would be one of the 28 dancers competing for the Redbirds next year. Ponto, who will graduate from Rochelle Township High School later this month and begin her academics at Illinois State this fall, said she plans to study English education in hopes of becoming an English teacher.

“I was pretty scared during tryouts because I wanted to continue doing what I loved and it would’ve been really unfortunate to not have that opportunity,” Ponto said. “I was shocked and really excited when I learned that I made the team. I wanted to be somewhere close to home and I felt like their dance program was the best fit for me. I’m looking forward to making new bonds with my teammates and I’m looking forward to being a part of a new team.”

Ponto spent four years with the RTHS dance team, helping lead the Chellettes to four consecutive IHSA State Championship appearances. The 2021 Rock River Valley Dancer of the Year, Ponto was also named the Chellette of the Year during her senior season this winter.

“Dancing at RTHS has been really inspiring for me,” Ponto said. “Coach [Kass] Smith really pushed us to be our best and she never let us be less than what we could be. It’s really motivational to have someone like that in your life and she’s been a huge help for me. I’m a very dedicated person and I put my all into what I do. I’m hoping that will benefit the team.”

Ponto received several accolades for her academic and athletic success in dance. A two-time Interstate 8 Academic All-Conference honoree, Ponto was named to the All-Conference First Team in the Northern Illinois Big 12 as a freshman before earning three straight Interstate 8 All-Conference First Team honors. With her studies in English education, Ponto hopes to become a high school English teacher and further continue her passion for reading and writing.

“I’m so proud of Taylor,” said Kass Smith, who coached Ponto for all four years at RTHS. “She was a hard worker for our team as well as a dedicated, smart and great leader and contributor. I know she will be the same for her college team and I can’t wait to watch her shine and continue to do what she does best.”