At the beginning of the season, each member of the DeKalb dance team sat down and wrote goals on a piece of paper.
They took each strip and linked them together, forming a chain that the team hung on the wall, something they saw every day at practice.
As the season progressed and each goal was accomplished, the chain became smaller and smaller. And now after the team took fourth inlast week’s sectional and qualified for the Class 2A state meet for the first time in the program’s two-year history, it barely is a chain at all.
But DeKalb didn’t take the smoothest path to the sport’s final weekend. The Barbs have gone through three different coaches in the past three years.
“Each coach was different, so we had to adjust,” senior captain Ashley Lorenz said. “I think that made our team closer, definitely, throughout the years.”
Kelsey Kunz, a sophomore at Northern Illinois, was an assistant for a season before taking over as head coach in November. She inherited a young team with only five seniors that was only in its second year as an IHSA sport.
“It was tough getting them used to the competitiveness,” Kunz said. “It’s not so much about fun and games, it’s serious and there’s a lot of technique and performance aspects they weren’t used to.”
Kunz admitted the Barbs were having a tough season until their final warm-up meet at Fieldcrest, where DeKalb took first.
“It definitely boosted our confidence. When they yelled, “first place,” we all screamed and looked at each other in amazement,” Lorenz said.
“We were astounded by getting first place. To hear our name, it made us want to work a million times harder. We came to sectionals focused and in that mindset.”
At Morris, DeKalb only had to place in the top sixth of 2A to advance to state. The Barbs came through in what Kunz said was their best performance of the season “by far.”
The team will head down to Bloomington on Friday morning, competing that afternoon. Another link in the chain ready to be unattached.
“It’s crazy to think about because it’s my first time going to state in anything,” senior co-captain Kristin Johnson said. “I’m so excited, it’s going to be something completely new. I’m thankful and blessed we get to experience something like this. But I’m also very nervous too.”