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Whitney Young’s Poms Team Makes History

Whitney Young’s Pom Team made CPS history by becoming the first CPS team to place in the top three at the ISHA state competition.

The Whitney Young High School Poms team recently headed downstate to compete against the best in the state. A couple days later we became the first Chicago Public School team to place in the top three at the ISHA state competition, making CPS history.

The process started last Saturday after taking home first at sectionals. Immediately after the team geared up for state with long hard practices. I, and my fellow dancers, pushed to be the best, proving themselves to be true student-athletes as we participated in long practices as they kept up with homework and grades while attending a school with academic rigor such as Whitney Young. This was a special year for Whitney and after taking home sectionals for the first time they set a new goal to be on the podium at state, and they did just that.

Tonay Tucker, the Head Coach at Whitney Young, said, “Every day since my speech after city, I was focusing my energy on the things I wanted for you all as a team! I was taking the time to visualize your smiles, see you on the podium, and make sure WY Poms is remembered the way we used to be! It was such a blessing having Coach Erica there because there was so much preparing to do so I also had to let go and trust…. That was really hard, but there are lessons in everything. It wasn’t about me, it was about this team and we all had a part to play.”

Tucker added, “After sectionals I wrote on my dry erase board.  ‘WY Poms is leaving the city in fourth place but we are coming back in the top three.’ I picked what I wanted and I put it in the universe and I trusted the process. Every time I started to get nervous I had to remember that I needed faith and I couldn’t second guess how prepared we were!”

State meant something special to me this year as a returning member of the Poms squad. Due to certain ISHA rules as a seventh and eighth grader, I was not allowed to compete at competitions, so I spent my seventh and eighth grade years mainly dancing at school events, and perfecting my skills so that when I was eligible I would be at my strongest. When I made the competition team it was one of my favorite moments of last year. Sadly, weeks before the state competition, I sprained my wrist. I did whatever I could to recover fast enough. Luckily, I was able to perform at state. It was a moment I will never forget. To be to dance on that state floor and dance at competition with my team’s seniors for one last time was amazing!

Karen Hughes, a senior at Whitney Young, said, “It was a fun experience. I really enjoyed it compared to the other two times I’ve gone. It was different this time because of the connection that I have with the team and because of how prepared we were, and so I was able to enjoy it and not be so stressed. For me, it was like a great ending of a chapter because my freshman year we did go to both days of state and we were top 10, so placing 3rd my senior year just bought it all home.”

Whitney Young’s Pom Team

Whitney Young senior Lael Saphir also noted how special this year’s competition was. “State was definitely so much better compared to previous years. Going into it I was super prepared. From the moment we stepped onto the bus to day one, I was ready to win. I had a lot of fun though – from the bus ride on the way there to being in the hotel with everyone laughing, and going on live making Tiktoks. I could definitely say that it was one for the books, especially considering how we made history at IHSA and shocked everyone that we beat our past state champions. Overall, it meant a lot because it showed just how much of our hard work truly [paid off] and it was nice to have it be appreciated, especially with our plaques and metals.”

We have a call and response chant that we say, “Last set, best set. We will, attack,” and we did just that. I couldn’t be prouder of my team. Click here to watch the team’s performance.


By Amariyah Mallory, Freshman, Whitney Young

IG: Dancemari_


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Written by Amariyah Mallory

Amariyah Mallory is a life long learner who's passionate about dance, committed to social justice and service, invested in African America culture and current events, and devoted to writing. 

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