Rochelle student-athlete Taylor Ponto was not expecting to be named the 2021 Rock River Valley High School Dancer of the Year. But when the virtual awards ceremony took place this past month, Ponto was shocked to learn she had been selected as this year’s award winner.
Ponto was one of four Rochelle Chellette dancers (Kayla Keilman, Jessica Vagle and Miranda Dubek) who were recognized as Rock River Valley High School honorees this year. Six Rochelle student-athletes were selected as honorees including Ponto, Keilman, Vagle, Dubek, Megan Thiravong (golf) and Ben Harvey (wrestling). Ponto and Keilman were each named finalists.
“It makes me really grateful for all of the ways in which my coach and my teammates have encouraged me to be a better dancer,” Ponto said. “My confidence in my dancing has improved more than anything. It has helped me in both my performances and my ability to learn new skills. I want to be able to master much harder skills, like a front aerial, in the future… My favorite part about being a Chellette is seeing the way we’ve grown as a team throughout the years. We’re all very supportive of each other and I will always treasure our accomplishments.”
Ponto, who will be a senior this coming school year, has been with the Rochelle Chellette dance team for three years. Ponto has helped lead the Rochelle dance team to the IHSA 1A State Championship meet in each of the last three seasons, with the Chellettes finishing as high as sixth place during the 2019-20 season. Ponto was named an All-Conference First Team honoree and an Academic All-Conference honoree by the Interstate 8 Conference this season.
“I want to challenge myself to achieve more difficult techniques for my senior season,” Ponto said. “I believe we can make it to the state meet with coach [Kass] Smith’s encouragement and amazing choreography. I would love for this group of seniors to say that we made it to the state meet all four years of high school. I have always loved learning different routines and different styles. I get excited when coach Smith shows me a video and says, ‘learn this!’”