H-F Steppers Club takes national title

  The H-F High Steppers captured the national
  championship title in competition May 26.

  (Provided photo)
The Homewood-Flossmoor High School Steppers Club’s synchronized dance routine was judged the best in the country at the Youth Step USA National Championships co-ed division on May 26 in Newark, New Jersey. Catherine Cook, the team coach, won Coach of the Year honors.
With the victory the team won a $4,000 prize. 
“I was completely shocked,” Cook said, and the team members were crying joyfully for having captured the title at the biggest step competition in the country. 
  Catherine Ross-Cook shows
  off her Coach of the Year
  award and the champions
  plaque the H-F Steppers
  Club won at a national
  steppers competition
  May 26.
(Photo by Marilyn 
  Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
The Vi-Kings and Queens of Xcellence, the H-F team’s competition name, won the first place trophy on a tie-breaker. A panel of judges reviewing scores determined H-F won with the highest score for overall performance.
The team’s dance routine centered around a butler theme. Cook said she set the plot to be loosely based on the movie “The Butler” that told the story of a White House butler. The dancers stomped, clapped and did gymnastic flips to present a story of the butlers and maids who helped make the greatness of America possible.
The team came on stage in butler costumes that included glittery bow ties, white gloves, white shirts and tails. Cook said the team had to have a uniform presence, down to the color of nail polish and lipstick. The whole routine timed out at 9:49 just beating the 10-minute limit.  
  Congratulations Steppers!

  Congratulations to team
  members Alexa Brown, Lyric
  Brown, Anton Brooks Jr.,
  Dystanie Bryant, Tamra Butler,
  Tearra Edwards, Kaniyah Gill,
  June Glover, Destiny Griffith,
  Destiny Harper, Brea Hill,
  Elexis Kirkwood, Emiracle
  Kirkwood, Historie Lagrone,
  Nadia McGowan, Skyy
  Newburn, Raven Proctor,
  Joy Rhodes, Dana Riley,
  Sydney Robinson, Brooke
  Watson, Deja Weston-Stipe.

  The team was coached
  by Catherine Ross-Cook,
  head coach, and Jaron
  Boyd and Lindsay Brown,
  assistant coaches.

Nerves were fraught after a 13-hour bus ride from Flossmoor and Cook was glad to give the team a break, including an impromptu performance in Times Square in New York City. 
Once the contest started, Cook said the team drew second of the seven teams.
“It’s a little scary to go on at the very beginning of the show. This year has been the year of us drawing first or second. I would prefer they go early though,” because watching other teams perform can make the dancers panic and lead to doubts of their abilities, she explained.
This school year the team took first place in six of the seven competitions it entered. It won enough points at a regional qualifier tournament in St. Louis to earn the bid to New Jersey, a tournament considered the premier of stepper competitions, she said.
The team previously competed at the National Step Show Alliance and has brought home first and third place trophies. Cook said she switched this year to the Youth Step USA National Championships because of its status in step.
“I knew this was going to be my final year and we really, really wanted to push ourselves,” the coach said.
Steppers has been a club at H-F since 1996. Cook took the program over in 2009 admitting she knew little about step competitions and all that it involved.
“I ran track in college,” she said. “I was in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and I did some step in college, but I’d never been a dancer, a cheerleader, a gymnast.” After watching YouTube videos to study step choreography, Cook began developing routines. And she created a mission statement for the club around STEP — Service, Teamwork, Educational Proficiency. 
“I have taught my kids to learn now if you chase trophies as victory they’re trinkets that get lost, they get broken. But it’s the character building, the love you have for your team,  pushing yourself beyond your limits — those are the things that you’ll carry with you for life,” she said.
The Steppers Club roster is around 40 students. Cook also created a junior varsity stepper team to help grow the roster for varsity. During her tenure as coach, she has had families of girls come through the program and admits the Steppers Club is like a second family for her.
Cook is breaking from the program because she realized Steppers was consuming her free time. She said she is leaving to spend time with her four children. 
“It was a very hard decision and still not very easy now” that her resignation has been turned in, she admitted.

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