By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School competitive/poms dance team has the distinction of being known as the Puppettes. While essentially every other RBHS team is called the Bulldogs, the Puppettes have carved their own niche in the school's sports landscape.
During football and basketball games, the Puppettes provide halftime entertainment. However, when October rolls around, the team begins the competitive portion of its schedule by taking part in multiple competitions.
Over the past few years, a pattern of success has been established under third-year RBHS coach Madelyn Doyle.
"Last year's 2018 IHSA state dance competition was the first time the RBHS poms team had gone to state since 2015," RBHS senior Korinne Hopek said. "We had been the underdog team for most of that year, coming out of multiple competitions with top three trophies.
"This year we had another great season. Being the first school called [at the Geneva Sectional] as 2019 state qualifiers at awards was a quick rush of excitement and relief. All the nerves and practices were worth it and brought us to our goal. State was a great way to end the season on a high note."
Ava Kaiser, an RBHS junior, added: "It was a thrill to perform at such a big arena among so many amazing teams at state. There was a huge audience and lots of spotlights on the performance floor. It was pretty nerve-wracking but also a huge honor."
Doyle purposefully stacked the schedule this season with tougher competitions against bigger schools. The Puppettes responded to the challenge like champs.
"Our music and choreography were very unique compared to other lyrical dances," Kaiser said. "Our theme and costumes were well developed and helped us to stand out at competitions. We had such a great season. I really enjoyed dancing with all my friends and making some new ones as well."
The RBHS dance team recorded a runner-up showing at the 21-team Andrew High School competition. The Puppettes also performed well in the postseason, scoring a state-qualifying total of 82.63 at the Geneva Sectional. At the state finals hosted by Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, the RBHS dance team had a score of 79.19 to finish 21st in the preliminary round.
"We did better at the state competition this year compared to last year," Doyle said. "I was very proud of the girls at the sectional. They really got into it with a fresh mind and energy. If they continue to progress like they have, the team will be in a good place moving forward."
While being a part of the dance team can be fun, there's plenty of hard work involved.
"The girls start dancing together during the summer before the school year," Doyle said. "In the fall, they practice three times a week and then every day for two hours during the competitive dance season. We work on weight, technique and flexibility training.
"Our focus is to create a positive and supportive environment for each other. A goal for our team is to respect each other as dancers. Dance can be pretty competitive so it's hard not compare yourself with other teams, but we try to focus on what's important to us."
The Puppettes are Ava Maria McCarthy, Sophia Bowie, Lizette Escobedo, Briyana Gil, Bella Gilhooley, Catherine Glawe, Kelllie Halvey, Quincy Hayes, Destiny Herrera, Korinne Hopek, Ava Kaiser, Marketa Mackova, Olivia Meyer, Elena Miers, Angela Murray, Neve Norasith, Kassandra Ramirez, Damia Wilson, Madelyn Wren and Nina Zoppi.