Not many people can say they’re national champions -- and even fewer can say they won that title by the time they were in fifth grade. The step team at Goodman Elementary School in Arlington can though.
They won the U-12 division at the National Step Show Alliance Championships this past weekend in Chicago. They beat out five other teams who qualified for the prestigious competition.
“It was really exciting,” said Paola Maqueda, a fifth-grader and co-captain of the GES Steppers. “And we liked it a lot.”
Their routine combines dancing, an intricate series of stomping and clapping in rhythm, even jumping on each other’s shoulders at one point. And the judges and teams in Chicago almost didn’t get to see it.
“At first we had the heavy shoulders of how are we going to get there?” said Christy Heath, one of the team’s coaches.
The GES Steppers qualified for nationals but didn’t have the money to get to Chicago. They turned to the community for help, which stepped up in a big way. The team received more than $11,000 in donations.
“It means a lot because they took the time to donate,” said Maqueda.
The team said that support is what pushed them to work hard and ultimately come out on top.
“It’s still kind of surreal,” said Heath. “It hasn’t set in yet. The effort they put in is tremendous.”
The team arrived back at school Tuesday with a big trophy.
“It means that we tried our best and we had fun,” said Tearra Seal, a fifth-grader and co-captain of the GES Steppers.
But just to make sure everyone knows how appreciative they are, they’re spending the next few days writing thank you notes to everyone who donated.
They weren’t the only step team from Arlington that went to Chicago and brought back a national title. The Bowie High School “Souljahs” won their division as well.
After not placing during last year’s competition, the team said they came back this year ready to work harder. To prepare for the competition, the team practiced upwards of four hours, six days a week. They said they’re glad the hard work paid off.
“It was the happiest moment of my life,” said Trey Boston, a senior on the team. “I never cried so hard. I’ve never been so happy. It was just worship and good feelings.”