(This story originally appeared in the 2021 Christmas Edition of the Sapulpa Times. You can buy the Digital Edition here.)
Submitted by Megan Hoey
The Sapulpa Ping Pings return from OSDTDA (Oklahoma State Dance Team Director’s Association) STATE Competition 2021 in Tulsa with 3 State Titles and multiple awards and recognitions.
OSDTDA was founded in 1997 because Dance and Pom teams did not have a competition/championship opportunity since they are not covered under the OSSAA umbrella. They provide a comprehensive state competition program for Dance and Pom teams. State championships are earned by soloists, ensembles, and for team competition in Pom, Jazz, Kick, Hip Hop, Mix and Game Day categories.
The Ping Pings are Coached by Head Coach Molly Heritage (in her 5th year) and Assistant Coach Jennifer Gardella (in her 4th year). Both Coaches were former Ping Pings. Since Fall of 2017, the beginning of Heritage’s tenure, to now, the Pings boast an incredible 11 State Championships and 1 National Championship (Dance Team Union in 2020). The talent, level of instruction, management, leadership, passion for dance, and love for all team members by both Heritage and Gardella plays a huge role in the Ping program’s success year after year, with many promising years to come.
Heritage was selected as OSDTDA East Region Coach of the Year and was recognized at the OSDTDA State Competition this year. Each year the organization picks two Coaches one from the East Region and one from the West Region. The OSDTDA Board selects the recipients.
The Pings took 3 team dances to State Competition this year, selecting to compete in the Ensemble, Mix, and Kick categories. They brought home the State Title for all 3 dances, resulting in a sweep for the first time, ever. In years, past the Pings have won a single title or in some years 2 of 3 titles, but this the first year for all three dances.
The Ensemble dance is a select group of team members, namely Brooklyn Berry, Maddie Craig, Ryann Hoey, Brooklin Latham, Jaselyn Rossman, Pearl Smith, and Kiley Sontag. Pings tryout for the Ensemble dance in the summer, prior to school starting. A small group is then selected by the Coaches. Sapulpa competed in the Senior Large Ensemble category, meaning their group had between 4 and 8 members with an average grade level of 11th-12th. This year’s dance was titled “Apologize” and was a contemporary piece choreographed by Coach Molly Heritage. All Ensemble dances are required to “qualify,” which earns them a spot in the Finals at State. The Ping Ensemble attended OSDTDA Qualifiers in November at Norman North and earned 1 of 3 spots in the State Final out of approximately twelve (12) Senior Large Ensembles dances. Ensembles are not competed in State Classifications as the other dances, and can be brought from 2A to 6A schools. The Mix dance was the first of three (3) State Titles earned this past weekend.
The Mix dance, is a routine that must combine four genres – Pom, Hip Hop, Jazz, and Kick. The routine must contain all four styles, but not in any particular order. Mix dances compete within State Classifications. Sapulpa competes in the 5A division now, after OSSAA classification changed in 2020 dropping them from the 6A division. This year the Mix dance was titled “Icy” and included a mix of songs from Vanilla Ice (Ice Ice Baby), Paula Abdul (Cold Hearted Snake), Foreigner (You’re as Cold as Ice), Gucci Mane (Icy), and Saweetie (Icy Grl). The Pings competed in this category taking the 5A Mix State Title home against strong teams from Edison and Ardmore. In addition to the State Title, they won the High Point Award for this category. This means the Pings had the highest scoring Mix dance of the entire competition from 2A to 6A teams (16 routines total). The costume for this routine, a light “icy” blue utility biketard, also won a Costume Award. This dance was the second of three (3) State Titles earned this past weekend.
The Kick routine rounded out the weekend competition with a stellar performance. The Ping Pings are known for being a Kick team. The routine this year was a Beethoven Fur Elise modern music mix and featured black and white piano-themed costumes. They won a 5A State Title with the routine against Piedmont, Blanchard and Claremore. Again, this Kick routine also earned a High Point Award for the highest score against ALL Kick routines across all divisions 2A-6A (12 routines total). The Kick dance was the third State Title earned this past weekend.
The Pings had 10 team members take their solos to the OSDTDA Qualifying Round in November, in hopes of landing a spot in the Finals at State. The solo categories are broken into 2 divisions: Intermediate (9th and 10th graders) and Senior (11th and 12th graders). Three (3) Senior-level Pings “qualified” out of nearly 80 senior-level dancers from across Oklahoma for 13 spots in this division for the Finals – Brooklyn Berry, Maddie Craig and Ryann Hoey. Senior Brooklyn Berry placed 3rd for her contemporary routine “Sin In Your Skin.” She also received an OSDTDA Service/Community Involvement Scholarship awarded to the applying candidates that most clearly displayed both involvement and outstanding achievement in service projects, both at school and in the community.
All seniors from school teams across the state are eligible to audition at Qualifiers in November at Norman North for OSDTDA All-State. Ping Seniors earning All-State team spots were Brooklyn Berry, Maddie Craig, Ryann Hoey, Jaselyn Rossman, and Pearl Smith. Additionally, Avery Kennedy was named to the OSDTDA East Region team. The All-State team performed a routine together at State as an exhibition. Recipients receive an OSDTDA All-State jacket.
Preparation for State routines begins each year with choreography in July when Ping practices start for the upcoming school year. Music and routine selection by the Coaches starts prior to summer practices with costume development quickly following. Routines are learned, and then rehearsed at daily early practices (Pings report generally between 6:30 to 7:00 am each morning and rehearse thru 1st hour). They are then “cleaned” and worked on continually preparing them for OSDTDA Qualifiers each fall, and for TSF competitions (Mix placed 1st this year) and the team’s State Showoff just prior to State weekend.
Several team members were recognized at awards for their contributions in the classroom. Pings who received Academic All-State for GPA achievement 4.0 and above are Brooklyn Berry, Acree Ernst, Ryann Hoey, Jaselyn Rossman, Kenzie Scott and Emma Williams. Academic All-State for GPA Achievement 3.5-3.9 included Ella Chaffin, Maddie Craig, Brooklin Latham, Jayden Simpson, Evie Soares, and Kiley Sontag.
2021-2022 Sapulpa Ping Ping Team Members (alphabetical by grade):
Seniors: Brooklyn Berry, Maddie Craig, Ryann Hoey, Kaitlyn Johnson, Avery Kennedy, Gracy Price, Jaselyn Rossman, Pearl Smith
Juniors: Ella Chaffin, Kelsi Shibley, Kiley Sontag
Sophomores: Belle Cothren, Kate DeLoache, Acree Ernst, Brooklin Latham, Kenzie Scott, Emma Williams
Freshmen: Bailey Webb, Jayden Simpson, Evie Soares, Evie Walling, Paisley Williams
The Ping Pings are the dance team for Sapulpa High School. They dance sidelines at football games, perform at basketball games, school pep rallies and assemblies, and community and school events among other things throughout the year, in addition to competing at OSDTDA and DTU Nationals. They wouldn’t experience the program success they do without the full support of Sapulpa Public Schools Administration, Staff and their school peers, as well as, support and fundraising contributions by the Sapulpa community, businesses, family and friends. They are super proud of their program and the success they’ve earned and experienced throughout the years and are proud contributors to its legacy.