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Highsteppers go viral: Web poll results generate media attention for local dance team
by Dalton Hawk
Oct 14, 2011 | 1510 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Karnes City High School Highsteppers pose together with a copy of a regional newspaper that recently highlighted the local dance team.
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In a town of 3,042 and school of 265, news travels fast. So when a poll buried in The Victoria Advocate caught the eye of a devoted spouse, and he told his wife and her secretary, a quick school-wide email followed. Factor in a loving big brother and Facebook, and the votes started pouring in.

In only a weekend’s time, the Karnes City High School Highsteppers had topped even local Victoria East High School as Dance Team of the Week, and were highlighted in the Sept. 30 daily newspaper.

“It is humbling and overwhelming to think that so many would join one another in support of these young ladies who demonstrate such dedication and commitment week after week,” Highstepper Sponsor Penny Armstrong, also Karnes City Jr. High principal, said. “Because we are a small town and don’t often receive coverage, it was exciting for the entire community and even more so for the Highsteppers.”

The Advocate conducted an online poll Sept. 23-26 asking who should be featured as drill team of the week. The Highsteppers garnered 51 percent, or 391 votes, compared to Victoria East’s 29 percent, or 223 votes. El Campo and Bay City followed with only10 percent of the votes.

“Each year The Advocate does a Friday football feature, and this year, we decided to focus on drill teams. We add the online poll to the mix to encourage participation and good ol’ fashioned rivalry,” The Advocate’s education reporter Kayla Bell said. “Mrs. Armstrong’s husband (KCJHS History teacher and Coach Sean Armstrong) actually wrote me an email just bragging and bragging on how hard the Highsteppers work and how talented the team is. He asked if we could add them to the online poll, so much to Mrs. Armstrong’s surprise, we did.”

Coach Armstrong called the poll to the attention of his wife and Junior High Secretary April Clark, who then sent out an email urging everyone in the school district to vote for the girls. Other emails followed – including one to Highstepper Lieutenant Bridgette Matula’s brother Kevin Matula, a 2011 graduate, who then posted a link to the poll on Facebook.

“When a tight-knit community, such as Karnes City, stands up to support their local school and organizations that represent the school, I think the kids win,” Matula said. “What a great representation of school pride and support for such an awesome group of ladies. When an opportunity arises for a small community to receive coverage for an organization that is so determined and dedicated – as a family, we will rise up to support something that we love. Since we are a small community and we don’t receive much coverage and found out that Karnes City was in the running for Dance Team of the Week, the news spread like wildfire.”

Once the votes were tallied, Bell contacted Penny Armstrong, interviewed the group and its sponsors and wrote a story for the Sept. 23 Crossroads section of the regional paper.

“I quickly became aware of just how much pride the Karnes City schools and community has for the Highsteppers,” Bell said about her interview. “We don’t usually cover Karnes City, and honestly, I don’t think any of us expected, as Mrs. Armstrong put it, ‘The little dance team that could’ to beat out much larger schools in our online poll. It was clear people had rallied together in support of these girls. As a reporter, it was refreshing to see people so pumped up for something.”

Advocate sales in convenience store stands went up on Sept. 30 as the Badger Football team prepared for their first district game against Brooks Academy here at home – a game the boys would go on to win 51-0.

“The spirit we have is good because without spirit there is no point to bring our guys up,” Sophomore Stepper Alex Benavides said.

The Highsteppers serve as an example for other groups and teams not only on campus but throughout the area, Highstepper Captain Brianna Hopkins said.

“Being chosen for The Victoria Advocate was a real honor,” she said. “I am very proud to be a Badger and we got pushed to our limits. We’re not just another dance team. We are a drill team that works hard every day and making sure everything is perfect.”

Both Penny Armstrong and Sean Armstrong grew up in the Victoria area, and Penny Armstrong danced with the nationally recognized Victoria High School Victoriadores drill team.

“I must say it was quite thrilling for the girls to even be thought of, let alone, win the poll. Winning the poll has solidified the idea that anyone can achieve great things with hard work, expectations and a positive attitude, regardless of the resources they have or don’t have,” she said. “We are humbled and grateful for the incredible support and look forward to a great rest of the year.”
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