Dance: Decker qualifies for St. Ambrose University team

RTHS senior to study nursing while competing for nationally-ranked NAIA program

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With stay-at-home orders in place around the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Rochelle senior captain Erin Decker had quite the unique experience when trying out for the nationally-ranked St. Ambrose University dance team this past month.

Because formal tryouts were canceled this past month, Decker submitted videos to the St. Ambrose coaching staff, with each video showcasing certain skills necessary to qualify for the team. The disappointment of being unable to perform live quickly faded, however, when Decker opened an email response from the team stating that she had earned a spot on the roster.

“When I received the email that I had made the team, I was very excited,” Decker said. “It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that someone from a higher level in the dancing world was impressed with my talent… I’m looking forward to continuing my passion for the sport and creating lifelong bonds with new teammates… I didn’t experience an in-person tryout this year, but I’m hoping that I will be able to experience one first-hand next year.”

Decker will arrive at St. Ambrose as arguably the most accomplished dance in Rochelle Township High School history. A two-time All-Conference First Team performer, Decker helped lead the Chellettes to three IHSA State Championship appearances, including a sixth-place finish this season, during her four years with the program under head coach Kass Smith.

“Coach Smith helped me become the dancer I am today,” Decker said. “She has been coaching me since I started competing. She pushed me every day, whether it was during practice, game days or competitions. She really shaped the dance program at RTHS and I can’t wait to see the program evolve over the next several years.”

Decker plans to study nursing in order to pursue a career as a trauma nurse or an emergency room nurse. Along with the university’s dance program, which finished the 2019-20 season rated No. 1 in the NAIA rankings, Decker said that both the nursing program and the welcoming atmosphere on campus motivated her to choose St. Ambrose.

“Erin has been an absolute joy to work with and be around,” Smith said. “She has shaped the team this year with her determination, her caring attitude and her give-it-your-all mentality. She has set high standards for the team going forward and a dancer like her doesn’t come around very often. I’m so thrilled she gets to continue dancing at the collegiate level.”