Trying Out Success

Her heart was still beating as she ended her try-out routine. Blood was pumping through her veins and pounding in her ears as she held the final position.

None of this was new to her. Not the gym. Not the coach. Not the dance.

She had been here before, last year and the year before that but it didn’t make it any less nerve-racking as she left the school. A determination unmatched had taken over her and she wasn’t ready to give up on her dream yet. She pulled up the website a day later to see if her hard work had paid off and when she saw the answer she was met with shocked silence.

Ella McWilliams is in her first year as a TC Topcat. She made the team this year after being a Topcats manager. (Taylor Schwegman)

Junior, Ella McWilliams, achieved her high school dream of dancing with the TCHS Topcats. She had tried out for two years before finally making it on the third try. The tryout process started on March 29, 2021 with a meeting about what is expected of you and what you will be doing. Then the attendees are faced with a week filled with dancing. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday focus on teaching the students new moves which Ella said included double turns, leaps, kick sequences, calypsos and stationaries. Thursday composed of a mock tryout where the students run through the tryout dances in front of the Topcats coach and the team captain. All of this training prepared the attendees for Friday, April 2- the day of actual tryouts in front of the coach, the judges and a school administrator.

“I was nervous when I tried out because I was afraid of being rejected again,” Ella said. “The first year I tried out I didn’t know what to expect, the next year I tried out, everything was online and then last year we only had one practice to learn the dance.”

The Saturday after the tryout the results were posted to the Topcats website, Instagram and Twitter. When she saw her number listed as one of the dancers who had made the team she didn’t believe it and checked Instagram just to make sure there hadn’t been some mistake. Ella’s mom, Beth McWilliams was, and still is, her biggest motivator and encourager for Topcats, so she was over the moon when Ella made the team.

“I asked her if this was what she really wanted, and let her know if it wasn’t I was still proud of her,” Beth said. “I felt so proud! She worked for three years to make this team. I am in awe of her perseverance to be in this organization.”

So far Ella has loved being a Topcat. This is her first year actually being on the team, before she was a Topcat’s manager. She has performed at the football games and will be going to a competition in a little over two months. Even though she is nervous for competition she is still so happy she gets to be a part of such a positive family.

“Topcats is like one big family and community where everybody supports and pushes one another to be their best,” Ella said. “It is a positive organization.”

Tryouts were not the only challenge Ella has had to go through to be a Topcat. She has extremely taxing physical demands and expectations that she has to balance with school and free time. On Tuesday, during after school practice Topcats work on ab exercises. On Wednesday and Thursday they do leg workouts like kicks until they’re legs feel like they’re going to fall off to help with endurance.

“It can be difficult at times because we always have so much going on at one time and we never stop,” Ella said. “Working on our dances and dance skills every day can be hard on the body. It can be hard to manage.”

Beth does everything she can to support her daughter because she knows how much of a challenge it can be for her. When she sees Ella after a performance she can’t help feeling overwhelmed with pride.

“If this is the only way I can support her [Ella] I am 100% in,” Beth said. “To say I am proud would be an understatement. I am in awe of her every day and strive to be just as amazing in my own life as she is in hers.”