By: Carley Milligan, Editor-in-Chief
On the Towson University Pom Squad’s Instagram account, you’d normally find group shots of the team decked out in black and gold for a halftime performance, short clips from their practices and performances, or photos introducing their followers to one of their teammates.
If it’s a Thursday, there might be a #trickthursday video, where the squad shows off some of their skills.
But for the last two weeks, the account has acted as a countdown for the prestigious Universal Dance Association (UDA) National Competition held in Orlando, Florida from Jan. 15-17.
Senior and Pom Squad Secretary Jasmine Lee made sure to keep the account up to date with the team’s recent activities and successes at UDA Nationals where they made it into the finalist round of the Division I Jazz Category when they placed 9th out of 23 teams.
“Making it to finals was awesome,” Lee said. “It was a big improvement from last year because last year was our learning experience, it was our first year ever and we still made it to finals. It’s very rare that a first year team makes it to finals, and we came strong and we came strong again this year.”
“It was a really pretty version of that song, and that dance was very sharp and staccato but also smooth at the same time,” Lee said. “Last year we did a very soft and pretty dance, but this year we came with a different kind of style.”
Their coach, and Towson Pom Squad alumna, Nicole Desz agreed that it is tough for newcomers to the competition to make finals, and that she was proud of how the team competed.
“Even though we did not come home with a national title, we still reached our goal of making finals and even placed better than we did last year, which was in tenth place,” Desz said. “They truly performed their hardest and left it all on the floor.”
The team of 22 dancers, which splits into two separate teams of 16 in order to participate in Nationals, also competed in the Division I Pom category where they placed 11th out of 14 teams.
They danced to a mash up of several fast paced songs, including “Break Free” by Ariana Grande, “Hey Mama” by David Guetta, “Black Magic” by Little Mix and “Sledgehammer” by Fifth Harmony, among others. Their dance was choreographed in a more traditional “pom” style, which Lee describes as “hip-hop mixed with jazz.”
“It’s like a mixture of everything,” she said.
Desz said that the team plans to continue to improve on their technique and skills over the next two semesters, in order to continue their tradition competing in Nationals and striving to come home with an even higher placement.
Although the team only competes once per year, they perform weekly at Towson football and basketball games and practice twice a week.
As they get closer to Nationals, however, the frequency and length of their practices do increase.
“We had once a month two-day long weekend practices that were five hours long each day,” Desz said. “Also, we came back in early January and practiced every day for a week straight to make sure that our stamina and technique was up to par.”
Even after hours of practice to increase their stamina, Desz said that, overall, the team’s greatest strength is their ability to support one another.
“At the end of the day, no matter how we place in any competition, all we have left is each other,” she said. “They are like a family and their cohesive hard work really shows it.”
Lee said the squad is a true team who works together and always has each other’s best interests at heart.
“Our goal is to always continue to have fun and remember that this is about the experience and not everything is about winning,” Lee said. “No matter what happens we are gonna still be a strong team, and to just make each moment count, and to just enjoy and remember why we are dancing.”
If students are interested in joining the Towson Pop Squad, Desz recommends that they attend one of the team’s prep clinics in either April or at the beginning of the school year.