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Second in the state
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The team finished second at the TSSAA State Dancing Championship held last weekend at MTSU. Pictured are, front row, from left, Mary Humphrey, Emily Pennington, Odaysha Ramirez, Dani Davis, Bri Simmons and Gracie Miller. Second row, Andrea McCormick, Hailey Collett, Kataen Shockley and Alena Muncey. Back row, Abrayah Martin, Yaire Valadez, WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore, WCHS principal Jimmy Walker, Dante Grayson and Oniurca Ramirez.

The Pioneerettes are back.

The program with several national championships under its belt will have a chance to win another one in February. The Pioneerettes earned berths in two national tournaments, the second invitation coming last weekend after the team took second in the TSSAA State Dance Championships.

The Warren County dance team finished one spot behind Farragut in the small varsity pom division at MTSU. The top finish earned the Pioneerettes a bid into the UDA National Championship being held in Florida in January.

Coach Penny Shockley doesn’t expect her team to be able to attend the event. Instead, the Pioneerettes will accept an invitation to the NDA National Championship, also in Florida, in February.

“We have qualified for both events. We qualified for the NDA in August via video. It’s just too expensive to make both trips,” said Shockley. “I’m so proud of the team. We were right behind Farragut, the national runner-up last year. I think that speaks volumes about where we are.”

The state competition was just the second time the Pioneerettes had performed their pom routine. And even then, it had to undergo last-minute changes before it was event ready.

The team learned of a rule change just 15 minutes before taking the floor. The group of nine performers had to rework four tricks in a short time, but they were successful in their improvisation.

“It was stressful to change everything so quickly. They performed flawlessly though. I was so proud,” said Shockley.

The pom theme was “Stronger,” adapted because many of the members have been affected by cancer in their lives. The team uses pink and silver poms and concludes its performance with “Fight Song” by Rachel Platton playing.

Seniors Odaysha Ramirez, Emily Pennington and Danielle Davis  led the nine-person team which didn’t lack experience when taking the Murphy Center court. All but two of the team members performed at nationals last year.

“Most of them are not new to competition. We had two freshmen perform, but they were actually on the team last year but couldn’t compete,” said Shockley.

While most are not new to the team, Dante Grayson has added a first for the Pioneerettes. Grayson is the first male member of the dance team. He was not part of the state routine, but will take part in the hip hop portion at nationals.

With such success so quickly, the Pioneerettes are having to add new goals going forward. During the summer, the team was focused on placing at summer camp and bringing a state plaque back to Warren County.

They’re 2-for-2 and aiming higher.

“We had to add another goals We’re breaking new ground with this team and want to keep growing,” said Shockley. “I’m very proud of them for wanting to step outside the box and wanting to do new routines and grow as dancers.”

There is plenty of work left to be done before attending nationals in February. The Pioneerettes were already hard at work Tuesday, using the first day off from school to practice 12 hours on two new routines.

The dance team will perform four routines at the Hard Rock Live in Universal Studios – pom, jazz, hip hop and team. The team portion is four 30-second segments featuring samples of pom, jazz, hip hop and high kick.