January 20, 2005

Saluki Shakers finish eighth in national contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Hours of hard work and practice paid off this past weekend for the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Saluki Shakers dance team.

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The 18-member squad finished in the top 10 of the Universal Dance Association College National 2005 cheerleading and dance team national championships at the Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The team finished eighth among 24 squads in Saturday's semifinals to reach the finals for the first time in school history. The Shakers followed that with an eighth-place finish in Hip Hop and ninth place showing in Dance competitions on Sunday.

This was the Shakers' third trip to the nationals dating back to 2000. Considering how difficult it is to reach the finals, Coach Tawmi Conley said the goal of those first two trips was getting exposure for the squad.

This year, however, was different.

"I thought we had a good chance to make it to the finals," said Conley, who has coached the squad since 1998-99. "We have a talented team and they work good together."

The Saluki Shakers were one of 19 teams competing in Division I, which is based on school size. Sam Houston State University captured the Division I dance competition and the University of Delaware won the Hip Hop championship.

One of the squad's strengths is that in spite of its youth, the members are mature and cohesive, Conley said. There are only three seniors on this year's squad, comprised largely of freshmen and sophomores.

"They are really good dancers. You wouldn't know they are freshmen," she said.

The squad sent in a video in November and qualified for the nationals. Judges considered the performance to be so good that the Shakers skipped preliminary competition and advanced directly to Saturday's semifinals.

The two routines on Sunday were each less than two minutes.

Unlike some schools, SIUC doesn't pay for a choreographer for the routines, which Conley believes is an advantage.

"The girls want to do it on their own because it makes them that much better," she said. "I have a lot of talented choreographers on the team right now."

Another difference is that many competing teams form squads specifically for the national competition and do not dance at games or parades. The Shakers average about 13 hours a week of practice and work on routines every day but Wednesdays. The squad learns a new routine each week and performs different routines for each football and basketball game, along with performing with the Marching Salukis.

The next goal? To finish in the top three in the nation by the time this year's freshmen are seniors, Conley said.

"I only have three seniors graduating. I am hoping the rest of the ladies will try out again," she said.

Tryouts for next year's squad are set for April 17. For more information on the Saluki Shakers, visit http://siusalukis.collegesports.com/ot/silu-shakers.html

Encouraging student involvement in sports and athletic events is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

The 2004-2005 Saluki Shakers, listed by hometown along with their year in school and major, are:

Calumet City

  • Akira Wright, junior, health education.


  • Katie Kallberg, freshman, pre-major.

Du Quoin

  • Lauren Tolliver, senior, speech communication.
  • Karissa Wolfe, sophomore, marketing, captain.


  • Jenny Grigg, junior, special education, captain.


  • Allison Meyer, freshman, biological sciences.


  • Pammie Vilches, freshman, pre-major.


  • Erin O'Brien, sophomore, elementary education.


  • Rani Walker, sophomore, workforce education.


  • Kari Nichols, freshman, elementary education.
  • Kirsten Propst, senior, psychology, captain.


  • Katie Hohnsbehn, senior, early childhoold, captain.


  • Meghan Levins, sophomore, architectural studies.
  • Kayla McCabe, freshman, undecided.


  • Laura Yergler, freshman, undecided.


  • Megan Gouge, sophomore, mathematics.

Villa Park

  • Jessica Mitchell, junior, radio-television.


  • Melissa Butler, freshman, cinema and photography.

(CAPTION: Eighth in the nation – The 2004-2005 Saluki Shakers dance team reached the finals of the Universal Dance Association College National cheerleading and dance team national championships last weekend at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The 18-member squad performs at Saluki football and basketball games, and during some Marching Salukis’ performances.

Photo by Jeff Garner