Having completed her first season as head coach, Gina Thrailkill approached her 2019-20 Derby High dancers to see what they thought about continuing full practices through the summer.
Her dancers didn’t bat an eye.
“They all said they liked it because it’s less stressful once school starts and to get a lot of routines knocked out,” she added.
Knocked out and then some.
By midsummer, the Derby coach said that the dancers learned pregame, a halftime dance and the first pep assembly.
“The sophomores, Adam [Bradley] and Tristin [Zaragoza] know the expectations now,” Thrailkill said. “… Most teams when they come back from [summer] camp take two or three weeks off. They don’t start practice until the end of July. We came back from camp on a Wednesday and I gave them a Thursday off … back in practice on Monday.”
A big difference in year two under Thrailkill and assistant Stacey Lindsey is the addition of seven freshman and only one returning junior and senior. Even with the adjustment, Thrailkill said her younger dancers didn’t back away from the challenge.
In their trip to their annual summer dance camp, the team received seven All-American nominees compared to just two the year before. Bradley, Lia Roe and Jenna Gallegos all were awarded the prestigious honor at the end of camp.
As a team, they received a spirit stick and were given the Showmanship award. With so many new dancers to the team, however, Thrailkill said she was excited about the team award given to Derby and one other school.
“Especially being so young, our freshmen really stepped up and
took the bull by the horns,” she said. “They went for it and I’m most proud of that.”
The Derby coaches challenged their dancers to push themselves while at Emporia State. They chose the middle of three skill levels for their team routines at the camp, but also asked each of them to address a strength and a weakness in the breakout sessions.
Thrailkill said the team is given three days to learn a team routine that they’d normally take four weeks to memorize and rehearse.
“We pick the middle level not because it’s easier, but because we know we can learn it, clean it and in two days it can be clean,” she added.
It didn’t stop there as the dancers added two additional routines in separate classes.
“They also go to technique classes and classes where they learn another routine,” Thrailkill said. “They learn three [dances] in three days. In their classes, those routines were only about a minute long and a standard routine is a minute and a half to two minutes.”
The camp and summer practice schedule is part of a rigorous effort to prepare for spirit events and basketball and football games during the following school year.
Being that Derby is one of the only schools that has its dancers on and/or near the field through the entire game, Thrailkill said it’s crucial to be ready for a full season.
“Football season starts and we go right into basketball,” she said. “You know in Derby, we’re going to November for football and we’re not stopping. We try to get as much done in the summer as we can, especially with seven freshmen having to learn the fight song, touchdown and seven sidelines.”