Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s varsity song team won first place at the UDA National Dance Team Championship, a first in school history. The team placed first out of 87 teams in the small varsity pom division.
Held this year Feb. 1-3, the UDA National Dance Team Championship is an annual three-day national competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. More than 6,000 dancers from all 50 states competed. Santa Margarita’s national championship team will be featured on ESPN at a date still to be determined in March.
“I’m so very proud of this team – their team work, dedication and hard work,” said SMCHS Song Pom Director and Head Coach Nicole Cestone. “We have an amazing group of ladies that care so deeply about one another and take pride in representing their school. The girls worked so hard and through it all, they always showed kindness and loving hearts. … It was truly a moment to remember.”
Earlier this season, the team also took home the UDA West Coast Championship.
Cestone has led Santa Margarita’s song pom program for the past nine years. She has more than 25 years of dance and competitive team experience. A UCLA graduate, she danced for the Bruin dance for two years and danced for two seasons with the Disney California Angels performing at Angel Stadium. Her nationally-recognized work includes choreography for numerous pregame and halftime shows for the NFL, NBA and college games including working with the San Diego Charger Girls, San Francisco 49er Gold Rush, Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders to name a few.
Team captain and senior Catherine Nilsen of Laguna Hills reflected on the journey leading nationals, “I learned to appreciate hard practices and intense competitions because I knew our hard work and dedication would later pay off in Florida,” she said. “Our incredible coaches have given us the best opportunities and I couldn’t be more grateful to have them as mentors not only through dance but through life.”
SMCHS Song team Members:
Grace Caspino ‘20, Coto de Caza; Gracie Concialdi ‘19, Trabuco Canyon; Abby Davis ‘21, Rancho Santa Margarita; Ashley Finlayson ‘19, Coto de Caza; Kate Gallaway, ‘20; Kailey Lagestee ‘21, Coto de Caza; Sydnee Leet ‘19, Rancho Santa Margarita; Catherine Nilsen (Captain) ‘19, Laguna Hills; Olivia Orsini ‘21, Coto de Caza; Lauren Polusky ‘20, Dove Canyon; Kennedy Santini ‘21, Ladera Ranch; Stefani Siciliani ‘21, Coto de Caza; Ashley Weeks ‘20, Ladera Ranch; Alexis Zertuche (Captain) ‘19, Mission Viejo
Coaches: Nicole Cestone & Danielle Darwazeh