By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Fans at Grand Canyon University basketball games know the GCU Dance team can perform like pros in a packed arena atmosphere. They have numerous trophies in Game Day categories of national competitions to prove it.
But this year’s team has hit even higher marks.
For the first time last weekend, the Lopes won the Jazz Dance category in Division I at the USA Collegiate Championships in Anaheim, Calif. They also won the Game Day competition after winning the Game Day title at the recent Universal Dance Association College Dance Team Nationals, giving them three Division I national titles in the last month.
“Being able to win Game Day and Jazz shows how truly well rounded we are,” said Dance team coach Jacque Genung-Koch. “We feel like jazz is the most technical and most difficult – keeping it clean but keeping the artistry of it. There’s a lot of ballet skills involved.”
GCU’s 93.19 points beat second-place UC Santa Barbara (91.91) and third-place Texas Christian University (89.87) for the title.
Genung-Koch said that the competitions come at a time when the team is tired with many games and competitions and facing injuries.
“It shows how true of an athlete you are to get through when you are spread thin and you can fight through it,” she said. “It’s a moral and a mental victory to be able to push through. It is a testament to these girls’ hearts to fight for each other.”
Team members were disappointed about not winning the jazz title at the UDA competition and felt as if they had something to prove.
“We went into it with a calm mentality – without so much mental anxiety,” Genung-Koch said.
The team had a lot of confidence they could win the Game Day competition but wanted to show the judges they could do more in jazz, said junior Brianna Prestia, a captain.
They were first coming out of the preliminary round.
“We had so much emotion going into the finals,” she said. “My mom said she had never seen us dance with that much emotion before.”
Prestia said she and others on the team were fighting injuries and were stressed by schoolwork. But that emotion and a hard-earned precision carried them to the win.
“We all came together in the end. We just all did it together,” she said. “To win that for our school and our team meant a lot to us.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.