The Southeast Missouri State University Sundancers finished ninth at the NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship in Daytona, Fla., over the weekend.
"Hard work and dedication pays off," Sundancer coach and Southeast alumna Tatiana Parham said. "It's very rewarding."
The Sundancers were able to make the trip to Florida after raising $16,000. They participated in the Dance Division I competition with 12 other teams in the preliminary round. The top eight teams advanced to the final round and the Sudancers finished 0.6 points out of eighth place.
The team fundraised since 2010 and put on dance concerts and trivia nights. It also sold posters, had a candle-making event, washed cars and more.
The Sundancers took first place in a summer camp at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., in 2011, which earned them a bid to attend nationals. The bid rewarded them a discount for the competition fees.
"Not everyone gets a bid from camp," Parham said. "Other teams have to send in a video qualification in order to get possibly accepted to go."
Jessica Walz, a dance coach and choreographer from Hawaii, was hired to choreograph the Sundancers' nationals routine. She has been in Cape Girardeau twice since last summer and has worked with the team members on perfecting the routine.
"We changed something to better suit our team," senior Sundancer Melanie Marxkors said. "But it took us only two months to get [the routine] perfect."
The team got 11th place out of 30 teams the national competition in 2009. A few Sundancers said they have worked hard to make an improvement since the last time they competed at Nationals.
"This time around, I want to do my part and really bring my team up to a confidence that we've never had before because I truly believe in this dance and this team," senior Sundancer Melanie Nemerguth said before the competition over the weekend. "After four years, I have grown to have more and more passion for this team, and this time I'm giving it everything I have."
The Sundancers put in 20 hours a week on average practicing and performing at games and special events.
"There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes," senior Sundancer Danielle Albertina said.
The team will lose five dancers in May due to graduation. Albertina said they look forward to working with incoming freshmen. The Sundancers will hold auditions April 28 at the Student Recreation Center-North.