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The Cougars will compete in Modern, Contemporary and Kick routines on Dec. 7 at Lakeridge High School

COURTESY PHOTO - The Canby dance team finished first in Modern, Contemporary and Kick at Reynolds High School on Nov. 17.

Canby won every dance competition it entered last year.

But after opening this fall season by finishing second in one routine and third in another, the Cougars were not worried.

"That was an anomaly," Canby coach Jennifer Chaffee said of last season. "In my 13 years of coaching, we hadn't had a clean sheet. That was just a special year, a special routine. We don't ever expect that. And that's hard to tell kids and tell community members, because they just remember last year. There's nothing wrong with getting second and third. That's not a message we want to be giving to kids. They're working hard and they're doing their best."

Senior Chanelle Myers said not winning was actually valuable.

"I think it was good for the team to not experience first so that we could use it to grow and know that we do have to work for everything that we get," Myers said. We're going to do the best we can, and we all have to try. It's not just given to us."

While Canby won the Modern dance competition on Nov. 2 at David Douglas High School, the Cougars finished second in Kick and third in Contemporary.

The following Saturday in Wilsonville, Canby won Modern and Kick, and placed second in Contemporary.

The Cougars then won all three at Reynolds on Nov. 17.

Even more importantly, Canby's scores improved each week.

"You're competing against yourself, Chaffee said. "Your scores need to go up and you need to be improving every week."

The Cougars have one of their youngest teams in years. Of the 32 dancers, 11 are freshmen who have never been on a high school dance team before, some have never done any competitive dance.

"It's fun to have a young team because they're fresh and excited about it," Chaffee said. "But there's also a lot of behind the scenes traditions and rituals and expectations that we take for granted sometimes because they're just built in so your juniors and seniors just know how it functions."

Myers and Alison Bighouse are two of Canby's senior captains who are tasked with working with the younger dancers.

"You have to teach the people in your line the expectations of dance team, which is just kind of weird because I've never done it (teach) and it's been so long since we were freshmen and didn't know what we were doing," Bighouse said. "You just have to nurture them and tell them what to do."

The Kick routine is new to everyone on Canby's team.

"It's upbeat tempo, fun, fast-paced," Chaffee said. "It's also a really good cardio workout, so regardless it's really good physical conditioning moving into state season. You do have to have a certain amount of flexibility and technical skills to be in that."

The Cougars have 20 dancers in their two-and-a-half to three minute Kick routine.

"You have to have 50 kicks minimum," Chaffee said. "They have to be waste or higher. There are judges who just count kicks while you're performing. If you get tired and drop your leg it doesn't count."

Canby will close the fall season at the Category Championships on Dec. 7 at Lakeridge High School.

"We've got some really good competition in all of the categories, but our routine this year is really strong, so I think we all feel good about it," Bighouse said. "We just have to keep practicing hard."

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