In all the hustling and simply trying to get by in classes, it’s easy to forget that soccer and a lot of other sports ending in “ball” are not the only sports we have to look forward to. Lake Ridge’s newest step team, the Distinguished Gentlemen, have already stepped at pep rallys throughout the year but have only just begun their competition season.
The Distinguished Gentlemen were created in the Spring semester of the 2016-2017 school year by a group of boys, mostly seniors, who were interested in a group that could juxtapose Lake Ridge’s only other step team, Dynasty, which is an all girls group. The idea was brought to Master Sergeant Bertha Middlebrooks who found them a coach that would begin formulating them into the group they wanted to be. Joshua Boone, Content Mastery Aide at Lake Ridge and boys’ step coach, has been stepping since 2003 but began coaching in 2005.
“I started stepping when I was at Dunbar High School. I played football for a while but I wasn’t the most athletic. I was more interested in Choir, band, ROTC, things like that. I liked dance so my school created a step team and it took off from there,” Boone said.
In order to qualify to compete, a team must have at least four members which can be comprised of boys, girls, or both. They are then classified into divisions based off what their team is comprised of and compete against other divisions in the state that fall in the same category. Prizes for winning such competitions vary.
“Prize money, trophies, first second or third place, grand champion, best chant, best theme, best actor, or even strut competitions,” Boone said. “Each league has a point system that tells you where you fall against other teams and the team with the most points is the most likely to get the bid to go to national.”
So far they have competed in one round. Round two was a step show they hosted at Lake Ridge recently. They have five more rounds to compete in before nationals, the next of which will be held in DeSoto.
“The strategy I use most when it comes to preparing for competition is just repetition. The more you do it the more it becomes a habit. A lot of times people come in with bad technique so the more you practice the more you can perfect your craft and get to that end goal of nationals like any other sport,” Boone said.
Dillon Smith, senior, became team captain this year, only a few months after the senior boys who helped make the idea a reality, graduated.
“My job as captain is basically to deal with their problems and issues, keep them in check. I make sure we work together as a team and stay together,” Smith said.
Smith’s current goal for the team is not only to compete but to establish enough successes to ultimately make it to nationals.
“To get to state you have to apply and be accepted and invited. We’ve already applied for Stomp Wars and the A.W. Brown show. Nationals are in Florida but in order to get there we have to score high in competitions and we need to raise money,” Smith said.
Jacoby Harrison, junior, is also one of the original members of the team and has advanced to co-captain this year. Harrison leads the team by helping them focus on things such as facial expressions, their chosen theme, precision, synchronization, and vocals.
“My job is to help out where the captain can’t, be there when he’s not there to take charge, helping with steps and keeping things on track. We practice two and half ours every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday but on competition weeks we practice everyday. In order to advance to the Florida competition, the points we’ve scored in the smaller competitions have to add up to a certain amount. Our goal right now is just to be the best we can be to make it there,” said Harrison.
Quinten Dukes, sophomore and stepper on the team, explained what practices originally consisted of in order to prep the team for competing. Dukes was on the team last spring with its founding members and attended their two competitions but is excited for the team to do more.
“Coach established new formations, we had to come up with a lot of complex different steps and in order to work in our endurance we ran laps around the school,”Dukes said.
The Distinguished Gentlemen won their competition on January 28 and don’t have another one until February 17 but they are still busy planning for the step show they have coming up.
“It’s supposed to be big. It’s going to feature Dynasty and the Distinguished Gentlemen and I know it’s going to be broadcasted somewhere. Getting the message out that we’re serious about what we do is important too,” said Dukes.