Senior Dance Team Members Reflect on Their Memories and Success – The Baker Orange
As their competitive season draws to a close, the Baker University Dance Team has enjoyed exceptional success as it continues to grow and evolve. The team danced to the top throughout the season, winning both the Heart of America Regional Qualifier and the Midwest Regional Championship, as well as sixth place at the 2022 NAIA National Championship. Most recently, the team flew to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Dance Team Union College Classic where she placed third in each of her three competitions. Four strong seasoned team members have been influential in the success of the team and will leave behind a legacy of dedication.
For Senior Jaila Randle, one of the captains of the 2021-2022 Baker dance team, joining the world of collegiate dance was a bit compelling at first. Although she had danced for almost 20 years of her life, Randle never intended to dance at the college level before coming to Baker.
Growing up in Kansas City, Kan., Randle was an All-American on a competitive cheering squad throughout middle school and high school. “Dancing has always been a part of my life,” Randle said. “It’s like an escape from reality.”
After hearty support from friends, Randle found the confidence to take her dancing skills to the next level. Two weeks before her high school graduation, she had her first visit to Baker where she met Lynsey Payne, head dance coach and assistant director of athletic performance and athletic health. Upon arrival, she immediately fell in love with college and found the institution that ticked all her boxes. “I never thought I’d be on a varsity dance team, but somehow Lynsey convinced me.”
As graduation approaches, Randle explains that the end of her final dance season feels surreal. “There’s never a dull moment that I won’t remember,” Randle said. “With each of us having our own personalities, we really push each other out of each of our comfort zones and that’s what makes me love this team.”
Although Randle believes the team didn’t receive the award they deserved in the national competition, she is proud of her team for “playing with all their heart.”
The American athlete and three-time All-Conference Athlete encourages new dancers to stay open-minded throughout their college experience. “Don’t be afraid to show your personality through your performance and even during practices,” Randle said. “You’ll be surprised how far it will take you.”
Senior Kelsi Toy from Olathe, Kan. started dancing over 12 years ago as a fifth grader. Since the age of nine she has been active and dancing, which has become an important part of her life. Initially, she was inspired by her elementary school teacher who worked part-time in a dance studio. Her love for dancing only grew throughout her childhood, which led her to try out for the dance team at her college. For Toy, dancing became an outlet and in high school it added structure and discipline that translated into her success in college.
Toy began her career as a collegiate dancer at the University of Avila and transferred to Baker at the start of her freshman year. As a seasoned member of the team, Toy is sentimental about leaving Baker and leaving behind a team that meant so much to her. “I don’t think it will hit me officially that it’s over until I no longer attend practices or competition,” Toy said. “However, I feel very fulfilled and proud of the season we’ve had.”
The team flew to Ysplianti, Michigan, for the NAIA National Dance Competition, an experience close to Toy’s heart. She was thrilled to be in a new competitive environment and was proud of the team’s hard work to earn her place in the competition. “My favorite moment from the Nationals was when we sat down as a team and watched videos that family and friends had sent us wishing us luck,” said Toy. “We all sat there and cried because of the overwhelming love and support we had received.”
Throughout his time at Baker, Toy has received the Champion of Character award.“[Our team is] able to push each other to be better not just at dance, but in our lives outside of dance. said Toy. “Each of my teammates is so deserving and we all show up for each other which creates such a supportive environment.”
Toy encourages young dancers to challenge themselves and be gracious with themselves when the going gets tough. “Being an athlete comes with pressure and stressors, but being kind allows you to bring a positive mindset to your team dynamic.”
Growing up first as a multi-sport athlete, Senior Kinleigh Brecheisen quickly realized she had a unique passion for dance. Brecheisen grew up in Salina, Kansas, where she first danced for the Prestige School of Dance as a member of the school’s national championship team. She went on to serve for two years as the captain of the Salina Central High School dance team, an experience that prepared her well for her time at Baker.
Dancing at the college level was no surprise to Brecheisen, she always knew dancing would be a big part of her life. Brecheisen first heard of Baker from a friend. “Once I visited and was able to train with the team, I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Brecheisen said.
As one of the captains of the Baker Dance Team, Brecheisen also gained leadership experience through other local dance organizations. She currently coaches the competition team at the Baldwin Academy of Dance and Voice as well as choreographs for Salina High School and the Paola School of Dance. Her dedication to dance has resulted in many seasons of achievement.
Brecheisen explains that the culture of the Baker team is special and plays a big role in the overall success of the team. She is amazed at the family dynamics of the team as she reflects on her unique experience over the past four years. “I will always remember that no matter what we go through as a team, we come out better,” Brecheisen said. “No matter the obstacle, we find the positives, work together and make the most of every situation we face.”
The All-American and All-Conference athlete believes the team’s dedication to dancing year-round only strengthens their bond. “We build each other up, we push each other, and we win or lose, we give it our all,” Brecheisen said. “We have a connection with each other that has surpassed previous years.”
As her time on the team draws to a close, Brecheisen has been working to soak up every last moment with her teammates. “The potential for this program is outstanding and I’m so excited to see where it goes,” Brecheisen said. “I’ve been so proud to wear BUDT on my shirt for four years and soon I’ll be just as proud to wear ‘BUDT Alumni’.”
Growing up on both sides of Kansas City, Senior Payton Johnson always had the energy to be a lifelong dancer. Johnson’s family remember her dancing from when she was able to walk throughout her college years.
Johnson, like Randle, assumed high school would be the end of her dancing career. It wasn’t until Payne offered her a position on the team that she got excited about the possibility. “I was very happy and it’s been an amazing experience ever since,” Johnson said. “I would never have turned down this position and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”
For Johnson, the Baker dance team was an essential part of her college experience. “All the memories I have on this team, I will continue to cherish forever,” Johnson said. “From snowy practices on the field, to Allen Field House cleanups, to road trips together and our famous Chili’s dinners and so much more. The dance team has brought so much light to my college experience.
The idea of leaving behind the strong bonds Johnson has forged with the team is bittersweet. “We’re not just teammates, we’re actually family,” Johnson said. “I’m afraid to let this part of my life go by.”
Senior members like Johnson have seen the team fail and succeed over the years, which only sweetens the team’s recent accomplishments. Johnson was named an All-Conference Athlete three times and danced at nationals all four years with Team Baker. “We work so hard our entire season and putting it all together to win conference and regional titles in 2020 and 2022 has made every moment rewarding,” Johnson said.
She encourages future Baker dancers to bring nothing but themselves. “Whatever flair you bring to the team is what sets your team apart from the rest. Dance like no one is watching and give every performance, game, tradition your everything,” Johnson said. “You will never regret doing what you love with the people you care about so much.”