Showstoppers: a team stepping to be heard

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Hayden Thornton

The Showstoppers perform at the basketball homecoming pep rally after weeks of preparation. For the last event of the year, they stepped to “Ain’t my fault,” “Hot now,” “Chop style” and “Blow the whistle.”

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Behind the pep rallies and Black History program is a team of girls who step to their own beat and entertain crowds. Although they grab the attention of many, few know what it takes to be on the step team. 

What began as a trio of girls over a decade ago has now grown into a team of sophomores, juniors and seniors sponsored by Gloria McNeal, an interpreter for hearing impaired students. 

“I enjoy [sponsoring the team],” McNeal said. “I fell in love with doing it, watching the girls grow… of course, I love dancing, so to watch them do something that I can’t do anymore, that’s exciting.”

While McNeal critiques the attire, music and dances, captain Elise Kelley (12) carries much of the weight when it comes to responsibilities for the team. 

“I come up with everything myself,” Kelley said. “I make the choreography and make the formations; I get us different venues to perform at.” 

The team also performs outside of school activities.

“We just performed at the parade on Beale Street,” Kelley said. “It was cold, and it’s hard to step while you’re moving, but I always make it work to the best of my ability.”

With practices and conditioning during the majority of the week, the step team’s determination to prepare for events is irrefutable.  

“I wish people knew that we work hard for what we’re trying to do, and we wish that some people would have more respect for us,” Grace Pinkney (10) said.

To be a Showstopper, it takes more than a sense of rhythm and ability to dance. Perseverance is necessary to be this type of athlete. 

“It’s harder than it looks,” Kelley said. “You will cry at least a couple times from frustration…that just means you have the passion for [a sport], and that’s really what I look for in the girls.”