Through the years, the Evergreen Poms Dance Team has carried on a pair of traditions. The first is being the hardest working program in the high school. In a typical season, the Poms practice and compete eleven months out of the year, meeting six times a week.
As a result of a certain worldwide health condition, the name of which we shall not mention here (starts with a C, ends with 19), the Poms season was anything but typical. The squad was able to perform at only one football game and participate in three competitions. Despite these challenges, the team still managed to give it all they had and achieve their accustomed level of success.
The Poms captured first place in the 4A Jeffco League meet, second at the CHSAA State meet (19 4A teams competed), and fifth at the National Dance Alliance (NDA) Virtual National Championships.
“Through all the ups and downs of the year, the team still came together and supported one another,” said Poms head coach Sophie Updike. “All 11 girls have worked incredibly hard this year, allowing our team to thrive. These ladies have really poured their heart and soul into competing, and that’s the kind of thing we need to have a happy and successful team.”
Individual honors also came the Cougars’ way this past season. Seniors Amy Updike, Paige McCartney, Emily Burt and Olivia Rourke all achieved UDA All-American and Colorado Spirit Coaches Association All-Colorado honors for excellence in dance, academics and leadership. In addition, Burt also garnered CHSAA All-State Spirit Team honors.
“We work so hard for one another because we are a family,” McCartney said. “We were able to achieve so much this year because we did it together.”
“This year has been very weird,” added Burt. “Being on the Poms team has given us all something to look forward to and work for.”
For Sophie Updike, this was her fourth year coaching the Poms, second as head coach. She was assisted by Melissa Thomas and Jesse Florquist. Updike competed for the Poms until graduating EHS in 2016, and is a graduate of CU Boulder. Thomas coached in Oklahoma for 25 years before moving to Colorado this past year, while Florquist is also a former team member who has helped with the program on and off for several years.
As with most programs in 2020-2021, normal schedules and routines did not apply. When the team began the season, they did not know if they would compete at all. Early practices were not even face-to-face. The girls finally learned after returning from winter break that they would be able to compete in person.
“Asking a group of teenagers to give up their weekday evenings to come to intense practices, for something that may not happen, seemed difficult at first,” Coach Updike recalled. “But these girls showed up every day ready to work hard and give maximum effort for the good of the team. To me, this fact alone has been the most impressive part of the season.”
Winning the League title in mid-March was a springboard for the Poms’ success at the State Championships on March 26. Dancing in front of a few dozen spectators rather than the customary hundreds, the EHS squad was one of five teams to advance from the preliminary round. The Poms achieved their stated goal of a top three finish, placing second just behind the winning team from Erie HS.
In April, the Poms capped their season with a fifth-place finish in the highly competitive Small Varsity Pom competition. The team did not compete at Disney World, as in years past, but recorded their routines at the EHS gym and submitted a video.
As you may have guessed, Sophie and Amy Updike are sisters, with a five-year age difference. I asked the siblings if their relationship presented a challenge to the coach/team member dynamic.
“Being coached by my sister was one of the most unique and incredible experiences,” offered Amy. “I’ve been dancing since kindergarten for many different coaches and teachers, and Sophie is the best leader I’ve had. We had to learn to separate our sister relationship from our coach-dancer relationship, but we learned many lessons that made our bond even stronger. I got to have my best friend backstage for every performance, and will be forever grateful for that.”
Coach Updike had a similarly glowing take on the experience.
“Coaching Amy has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Sophie. “It has taught us the importance of being patient with one another, but overall has been really fun and brought us closer together. It has been a blessing to be able to work together on something we are both so passionate about.”
Tryouts for next season were held in May, but anyone interested can contact Coach Sophie for further information. Contact information can be found at ehspoms.weebly.com. Another round of tryouts will also be held in September.