#1StudentNWI: Griffith dances through March

#1StudentNWI: Griffith dances through March

What’s recently happened?

Griffith High School (GHS) Seniors Bella Andriessen and Madi Worosz competed in the “Senior Duet” division at the Indiana High School Dance Team Association (IHSDTA) State Championship. In the previous year, this same duet got 10th place at state for Senior Duet. This result was pleasing, but was one they wanted to improve on this season.

Throughout the 2023 season, this duet had been performing incredibly well, and the pair is looking forward to seeing how they will fare against the whole state.

Sophomores Emily DeYoung and Hailey-Marie Guajardo competed in the Junior Ensemble division at the IHSDTA State Championship. This is their first year competing as a duet, and they have put up some impressive results throughout the season.

Semi-State and State are held on the same day for this event, so both groups traveled down to McCutcheon High School to compete. For the Junior Ensemble, DeYoung and Guajardo placed 11th with a score of 74.16, coming just one spot short of State qualification. Despite the disappointment from being that close, both still have two more years to improve on their performance. DeYoung was optimistic when reminiscing about the moment.

“Hailey and I gave it our absolute all and performed the best we could’ve. It was the best we’d performed this season. My experience was something unforgettable, and I could not be more grateful for the people and support I had around me,” DeYoung said.

Guajardo also was quite optimistic when asked about the future of the duet.

“Emily and I cannot wait until next season for our junior year duet,” Guajardo said.

Andriessen and Worosz, however, did qualify for State. With one of the best–if not the best–performances of their high school careers, they placed second in the Semi-State for Senior Duet. This was a shock for Andrieseen and Worosz. 

Soon after their state qualifying duet, they performed again, this time for State. This performance was just as brilliant, placing third with a score of 80.9. These results shattered Worosz’s expectations.

“Going into Semi-State, my goal was simply to qualify. I was very happy with how the season went, and I wanted to finish off by putting everything we had into our last performances rather than fixating on scores. Placing second at Semi-State and third at State was beyond what I was expecting, and I was so excited that me and Bella got to have that exhilarating moment to finish off our duet season,” Worosz said.

This duet is just as strong off floor as it is on the floor. Both Worosz and Andriessen have been friends for a very long time, and the day really encompassed that. Andriessen said it was an emotional day for all involved.

“There were a lot of emotions from all of us; Madi, myself, and even our coach. Madi and I are very closely bonded to the point where she feels like a sister to me. Getting the privilege of dancing a duet with her, especially our last one for our senior season was absolutely phenomenal. There was excitement, sadness, all different types of emotions. We both knew that whatever happened out there was going to happen with a purpose, and we just had to give it our best and leave it all out on the floor. When the dance was done there was still so much excitement which flooded into tears. The dance, overall, was very successful throughout the whole day,” Andriessen said.

What’s coming up?

On Saturday, March 11, the GHS dance team, better known as the Pantherettes, will be competing in both a Jazz and a Pom performance at the ISHDTA State Championship. 

For about half of the team, these will be their last two performances of their high school career, with five of the 11 dancers being seniors. The Pantherettes are going into the State championship with high expectations after a Regional championship and undefeated season in their respective division (A Pom) and along with a second place finish at Regionals in the same class (A Jazz).

With a lot riding on this weekend’s performances, each individual has different roles heading into the weekend. The sole Junior on the team, Catherine Cavazos, shared that preparation has been difficult yet enjoyable.

“Preparation has been both very challenging and exciting,” Cavazos said. “We have really attacked every detail possible to make sure the routines are clean and strong. We really want to show everyone how hard we’ve been working this entire season.”

With five of 11 Pantherettes being seniors, their role is very important if the team is to function at a high level. As captain, Worosz is one of those with the highest responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly. She has both on and off-the-floor team responsibilities. 

“I want to make sure that everyone is happy with what they leave on the floor regardless of our placement. Keeping the team hyped up and focused before we perform as well as recognizing that these performances are going to be our final runs of the dances we’ve worked so hard on all season will help us give it our all on the state floor,” Worosz said.

Freshman Janessa Wheatley has somewhat of a different role when referring to off the floor. She feels her impact is more reliant on her charisma and character than anything else.

“I think my role is to have a positive attitude and to make sure everyone on the team is excited and ready to perform amazingly,” Wheatley said.

The Pantherettes are performing both Jazz and Pom this Saturday at Lafayette Jefferson High School in hopes of outperforming their previous years and hopefully winning state.

Staff spotlight:

Julie Wencloff has one of the most unique backgrounds of all the staff at GHS. Originally born in Greensburg and from Pittsburgh, Wencloff then moved to Robinson Township where she attended Montour High School and also where her parents still live today.

After high school, Wencloff attended Edinboro University of Pennsylvania where she received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. She continued for another year and a half in order to receive her teacher’s certification.

Over that summer, Wencloff got her first internship located at Wallops Island, in which she followed a group of bottlenose dolphins along the east coast.

“My job was to take pictures of the dolphins’ dorsal fins in hopes to make a catalog of the population migrating along the east coast of the U.S,” Wencloff said.

She also mentioned that this project was in unity with the Baltimore Aquarium, now called the National Aquarium.

After that internship, Wencloff moved to the Bahamas to work at a Biological Field Station to teach kids about ecology in the Bahamas. While there, she also developed some other skills.

“While there, I earned my Divemaster level training through more than 100 dives,” Wencloff said. “This was the best part of the job. I was able to dive every day and enjoy the sea life on the third largest barrier reef in the world.”

Wencloff started teaching at GHS in 2000, and has taught just about every science class the school has offered. She currently teaches AP Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Biology. She finds teaching to be an endless journey which is constantly fulfilling.

“Teaching is never boring. There is always something new to learn and someone new to help learn something. Learning should never stop during your life. There is so much to know,” Wencloff said.

Outside of her occupation, Wencloff finds time for her hobbies, which include dog breeding, training, and sailing. She is part of a group called NWI Search and Recovery, which she defines as a non-profit group that looks for missing persons. She also competes in agility, obedience, rally, nosework, and Portuguese water dog trials. Wencloff takes a lot of pride in her dogs as well as her occupation.

Student spotlight:

Terrence Salazar-Ray, a senior at GHS, is a very influential and impactful student. Salazar-Ray is very involved at GHS. He has been swimming for four years, unified sports for two years, theatre for one year, international club for two years, best buddies for one year, choir for four years, and yearbook for one year.

One of Salazar-Ray’s passions is helping people as well as the community. He credits his home life and his surroundings for nurturing this passion.

“I feel like I was raised in a good environment and was around people who were very understanding. I also feel that I understand what people are going through and am willing to help them,” Salazar-Ray said.

He is involved in both swimming and theatre at GHS. Within swimming, he says that despite the stress the sport brings, he enjoys the positive aspects of it.

“Even though swim is very stressful, I love the sport and it helps take my mind off of other things. Swim also makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself,” Salazar-Ray said.

Although both are extracurriculars he is very passionate about, Salazar-Ray feels theatre is both similar to and different from swim.

“I feel like when you’re on stage, you don’t have to worry about anything. It was fun to step out of my comfort zone and to try something new,” he said.

Throughout his time at GHS, Salazar-Ray has had some very memorable experiences. GHS was his first experience of public school, and he felt it improved his life.

“I felt like it was really good for me and try to step out. Being able to be in clubs and other activities like that have really helped me out and made me become a better person,” he said.

After high school, Salazar-Ray has a very interesting future planned.

“After high school, I plan to pursue a degree to become a plastic surgeon in Arizona,” he said.

Salazar-Ray is a charismatic and passionate person who will find a good future no matter where life takes him.