Jenna Gillespie, a sophomore majoring in Business Operational Management, is in her second year as a Classy Cat. Growing up, Gillespie knew she wanted to be a Classy Cat, and every weekend her family would travel from Lawrence to attend Kansas State football games.
“When I was little we would come to the games and I’d wear the little K-State cheer outfit with pom poms. It was a very easy decision that I wanted to come to K-State for many reasons, academics as well but also to try out for the [Classy Cats] team,” Gillespie said.
As a Classy Cat, Gillespie and her teammates practice four to five times a week, depending on whether or not there is a home game on Saturday. Practices are around two hours, and on Tuesdays, there is a second practice used for technique work or to prepare for games. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the team practices with the band at Memorial Stadium, working on their different timeout dances which alternate with the cheerleaders, their halftime performances, and their sideline dances.
On gameday, the Classy Cats’ call time is six hours before kickoff. The team rehearses at Bill Snyder Stadium with the band and also practices on their own to fix small issues and work on timeout dances to perfect them. Next, the team eats lunch, makes a tunnel for the players in the parking lot, and performs pep rallies, which they call pep bands, for the tailgaters, and sell posters to fundraise. Right before the game begins, the Classy Cats head back inside to touch up their makeup and march around the stadium to arrive at the tunnel of the field.
Tryouts for the team are normally in late April or early May and last for about two to three days.
“Normally you have to submit a video as the preliminary round and then they [the judges] make cuts. If you’re a vet and have been on the team before you get to skip the preliminary round,” Gillespie said.
Next, the dance they will learn to perform that Saturday is sent in a video. On Friday, the dancers arrive to perfect the new dance, and the next day they perform in front of the judges and complete a technique portion. Cuts occur, and afterward the dancers learn a second dance to perform for the judges, where final cuts happen. Callbacks may occur, but not always.
“This year 27 actually made it [the team] and then we had one girl transfer so we have 26 now…We just learned that with COVID it’s really important to have alternates because something can always happen,” Gillespie said.
The Classy Cats currently have four alternates, which consist mainly of rookies who will rotate depending on the dances performed.
The Classy Cats often perform sideline dances, and their halftime performances are usually pom, jazz, or hip hop styles. For nationals, though, the team often performs in the pom or contemporary style, which differs significantly from their game day routines.
Nationals for dance occur in the Spring, and anyone on the team that wants to go will go. The dancers must try out to be in the performing group, though, and the expenses are mainly out-of-pocket for the team members. In 2022, nationals will be in Florida.
“I’m really excited because last year we competed but it was virtual. Last year there was all this excitement and then bleh, it was just a video. I think this year will feel a lot different,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie’s favorite sport to dance for is football because she enjoys being outside, the atmosphere, and the fans love the game. The Classy Cats also have more room to dance, and therefore are able to interact with the crowd more than in basketball.
As a member of the team, though, scholarships are not offered until their third and fourth years of making the team, much like the rest of the K-State band, unlike other athletics at K-State. It is up to the reader to decide if this system is fair or not, given the amount of work the band and Classy Cats put into preparing for games and competitions.