Lionettes National Champions

Liberty Hill Lionettes dance team champions
By: Todd Martin
The Liberty Hill Middle School Lionettes dance team is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by adding a national championship to its already crowded trophy case.

At the American Dance Drill Team Nationals event at the University of North Texas, the middle school dance team won pom, jazz and novelty divisions and the overall middle school championship. They also finished first runner-up in team hip hop.

In addition, Kaleigh Green and Paola Joseph scored top division one ratings on solos and Joseph was the second runner-up national champion soloist.

The team also came away with the Middle School Academic Championship with a combined 3.56 grade-point average on a 4-point scale.

Understandably, Lionettes Director Shay Mueller is proud.

Among 32 teams in the junior division, the Liberty Hill Middle School team finished eighth in the “Best of the Best” rankings. They were the only middle school team from a public school system recognized among the variety of public and private schools and dance studios.

Celebrating a rich heritage that goes back two decades, Mueller said her hard-working sixth- through eighth-graders showed their determination, bringing home the team’s third national championship and first since 2006.
“This year was a tribute to our 20 years,” the director said, “so we chose songs from our past and made them fresh and new. This group pushed hard with the goal of nationals. They got serious about it.”
Earlier in the season, the Lionettes won their division at a regional event at Ellison High School. At a competition in Austin, they gathered several first-place finishes, but fell short in the overall standings. The high level of competition spurred the group on to keep pushing.
The middle school dance team members begin learning their competition routines in July and continue practicing during their school period and twice a week after school and periodically on Saturday.
The hard work pays off with strong performances, but this year was beyond the usual success.
“They blew my expectations away,” Mueller said, explaining the powerful moment in the University of North Texas gym when announcers revealed the first-place middle school team.
“There were tears,” the director said. “We reached our goal. It was a surreal moment that had been a long time coming. They definitely went the extra mile.”
Seventh-grader Kaleigh Green, one of the top soloists, said the earlier competitions showed the team that they were vulnerable and urged them to keep working. “That pushed us to be better,” she said. “We wanted to prove to ourselves we could do it.”
She said the 18 Lionettes dance team members demonstrate a variety of strengths that combine well in competition.
Eighth-grader Olivia Farmer said it was lots of practice that led to the nationals championship.
“It was crazy. We were in disbelief,” she said of the moment they found out they won the middle school team championship. “We were relieved we won. There was a lot of screaming.”
“It was fun. I was proud of the team,” said sixth-grader Sumayah Ali. “When we practice, we encourage each other. I was so happy we won. I cried. It gets hard, but we have to work through it to succeed.”