SYCAMORE — Qualifying for the IHSA State Championship has become second nature for the Rochelle Chellette dance team. Having reached the IHSA State Championship meet in each of the last three seasons, Rochelle sought out its fourth bid in a row on Saturday, with the girls putting together perhaps their best routine of the season in the IHSA 1A Sycamore Sectional.
Performing to Stephanie Rainey’s “Simply the Best” and motivated for a return to the state meet, Rochelle scored 80.17 points to take third place out of 13 schools in the 1A class and seal a fourth consecutive state-qualifying berth. The Chellettes have formed a dance dynasty at RTHS, where they’ve advanced to the IHSA State Championship meet eight times in 10 years.
“We changed our routine halfway through the season and it felt really good to make it to the state meet with the changes we made so quickly,” senior Jasmine Sarabia said. “We’ve advanced to the state meet in all of my years here at the high school and this opportunity is really exciting for all of us. It’s been amazing to see my teammates grow into the dancers they are now and the bonds we’ve made are a huge part of our success over the last few years.”
It’s been another successful season for the Chellettes, who won the Class 1A title at the Waubonsie Valley Invitational and finished fourth at the Interstate 8 Conference meet. Unlike past years where Rochelle’s routine has expressed more sad emotions, senior Taylor Ponto said the team shifted its focus to a different routine that emphasized happiness and love.
“I thought the sectional was our best performance of the season,” Ponto said. “We were a lot more confident with all of our turns and we didn’t have many missteps. It’s a much happier routine than we’ve had over the last few years. Our routine earlier this season was much more sad and angry, but we decided to switch things up and show more happiness and the sweetness of love. We really focus on portraying the emotions from the music throughout our routine.”
The team will leave RTHS for the IHSA State Championship meet on Thursday before performing in the preliminary round on Friday at 12:25 p.m. at the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. After missing out on the experience of performing live during the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19, senior Kayden Kannheiser and the Chellettes are eager to return to the stage for their first live state performance in two years. Rochelle took 10th in Class 1A last season.
“The lights are on and it’s a lot different than being on a gym floor where we can see everybody,” Kannheiser said. “It’s a different atmosphere at the state meet and I like it a lot. It’s new and it’s an adrenaline rush for all of us. We’re definitely excited and it means a lot, especially for me since it’s my last year and I was injured last year. I didn’t know if I would be able to come back and perform again after my injury, but it really means a lot to me.”
Thirty teams in each class (1A, 2A and 3A) will participate in the preliminary round, with the top 12 teams in each class advancing to the finals on Saturday. Rochelle last reached the finals during the 2019-20 season, when the Chellettes finished sixth in Class 1A. It’s the first time in school history that Rochelle has reached the IHSA State Championship meet in four straight seasons.