Marshfield Upbeats

Marshfield's dance team performs its state routine during a dress rehearsal Monday at Pirate Palace. 

COOS BAY — For the first time in years, Marshfield’s dance team embarked on the season with a new head coach.

The transition from retired Debbie Brown to Breann Ford has gone almost seamlessly and the Upbeats head to Portland for Saturday’s state championships excited about their potential with their challenging routine.

The Upbeats compete at the state championships Saturday at Memorial Coliseum in Portland. 

“I am so proud of our team,” Ford told the large group of supporters who gathered Monday for the team’s annual dress rehearsal. “I could not be more grateful for these ladies in my first year coaching the Upbeats. They are such beautiful dancers.”

The Upbeats have a highly technical, lyrical dance filled with challenging ballet moves and leaps and spins in unison several different times.

“We’ve had comments from the judges that it’s too hard,” senior co-captain Elise Martin said. “We don’t know what that means.

“We didn’t take any of the hard parts out.”

As is typical with a state routine, emotions play a major part in the dance and the girls wear sad faces most of the time while dancing to the song “I’m Only Human,” by Christina Perri.

The music makes the emotions of the routine easier, the captains said.

“Because it’s an easy song to connect to, we can get into it,” senior co-captain Payton Davidson said.

“The only way you can score high is if you make the judges feel something,” Martin added.

The toughest part of the dance is a stretch at the end, which could prove extra beneficial at the state championships.

“It’s toward the end of the routine when we’re already tired,” Davidson said, explaining that judges take into account when during the routine tough parts are completed when they do their scoring.

The state competition will be tough. There are 11 teams in the Class 4A-3A-2A-1A division and the top six are all super tight with their best scores from competitions during the season.

Unlike past years, the teams will only perform their dance one time. That might not be a bad thing, Davidson said.

“In the past, we’ve done better our first round (at state),” she said.

The Upbeats are excited about their chances.

“I think we’d be pretty unhappy if we didn’t bring back a trophy,” Martin said.

“We’ve done well during the season,” added junior co-captain McKena Pederson.

The Upbeats finished second in their competition at Sheldon High School and first in their competition at Thurston High School.

Regardless of how they do in the state championships, the Upbeats have had a great first season under Ford and assistant coaches Alyssa Wisniewski, Ashlee Everetts and Maliyah Martin.

Ford said that it wasn’t easy following in the footsteps of Brown, but said there is also continuity in the program.

“Her first year coaching the Upbeats was my freshman year,” Ford said.

Ford was part of a state title team in 2006 and a runner-up team a year later. Wisniewski was on that 2007 team and choreographed the routines when the Upbeats finished second in 2012 and were champions in 2013. Everett was part of a runner-up team in 2000 and a champion team in 2001.

And all four are former Upbeats.

“That’s the type of team it is,” Davidson said. “People want to come back.”

The captains praised Ford for her work with the team this year.

“She’s done a good job,” Davidson said. “We all have expectations for what we’ve done in the past. To meet those and exceed them (is amazing).”

They had similar positive thoughts for the rest of the coaches.

“Maliyah brings so much positivity to the team,” Pederson said. “Ashley is like a mini-mom. She helps with everything.”

Martin said she and her sister, Calista, were having a discussion at home one night.

“I said I think I would do anything for Alyssa and Callista said she would, too,” Martin said.

Ford said the transition has been easier because of the talented group of dancers.

“We’ve pushed them out of their comfort zone this year,” she said. “I tell them to do some things they don’t think they can do and then they do them.”

In addition to the three captains, Marshfield’s team includes seniors Callista Martin, Madison Mede and Parker Stocker; juniors Heather Eckley and Celeste Cardoza; sophomores Sammie Zhu and Kiya Weatherly; freshman Serena Ellis; and sophomore alternates Morgan Billeter and Aurora Johnson.

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.