Squeeze, up. Point your feet. Ready, 5, 6, 7, 8. Squeeze and up. Those were the commands from Charlie’s Angels coach Kim Castro in her 21st year, to the five girls in her pod. This is a new normal for them, but for her and the Angels, it is good to be making the long road back. Prior to giving commands, she was at the door taking temperature readings to make sure each girl attending practice was OK.
Back means there’s a chance for this year’s seniors to start and complete a full school year. Things were kicked off on Monday when the Angels had tryouts for the team. Normally, Castro and her assistant coach, Silvia Hernandez, have the team for a week and are able to work with them.
They also have other judges to help pick the team. This year because of the coronavirus, it was different. Castro had the girls view a video of the dance they were to perform and they had to execute it. Usually, the girls would have three days to learn the dance, but this time Castro gave them a week to learn it.
This will be one of the smallest teams Castro will have with 17 returning members and a new teammate in freshman Isabella Archuleta. Tuesday’s practice in the Coyote Den was the first time the team had been together since March 12.
Hernandez remembers the end of the season so well. Last school year, the team was practicing when they received the call to disband practice. The team had come back on Monday, March 9 from winning their third national championship. They were practicing that Tuesday to go to Halftime Hoorah in Albuquerque on Wednesday, March 11. The team was never able to reconvene.
“I was very disappointed,” Hernandez said, “not just for the dance team, but for all of the sports that weren’t able to compete, and wasn’t able to either defend their title or fight to get their title back. Some of the coaches, like our softball coach Rebecca Marrujo didn’t get a chance to coach her first game. The seniors, they can’t get that year back. I’m sure they feel they got robbed.”
Even with the uncertainty of life and school, they are beginning to practice this year, but there are no guarantees that sports will return, and if it does, that they will be able to complete the year. For the Angels, last school year was a success as they were on a mission from the beginning of the year. The team knew it was going to be special from the start.
The team was on the same page, and after coming in third at nationals and losing by the smallest of margins at state, it was on. They accomplished that by winning the national championship for the third time and the second time in three years. The only thing that stood in their way for redemption was a victory at state.
Though the team won the national championship, (winning in 2016, 2018, 2020) they felt let down because they didn’t have a chance to win a state title in District 4-5A, as they were moved up to a new classification. For many of the girls, it is about bragging rights for being the best in the state. Many times when the Angels wear their gear to out-of-town tournaments, most of the competitors know who they are.
Last season, the Angels won every regional competition, winning either champion or grand champion, and then they won nationals. Everything was pointing toward reclaiming their state title. The team was ready for the competition, but then they didn’t get to go.
“Winning nationals is great,” Hernandez said, “but it is different winning the state title. These are our neighbors, and the people we compete against. Considering what happened last year, losing by .9. We didn’t win, but everyone felt like this was our year last year. We were going to go back and show them.”
Hernandez felt like last year’s team was very special, they all got along great. They learned their dances well. With each year being different, Hernandez is hoping the same camaraderie and work ethic will be there. A lot of things have been different due to COVID-19. It is one of the things that has affected fundraising and sponsors.
“The community has been good to us,” Hernandez said. “They have always supported us. We do understand, we tell the girls to always remember that they didn’t go to school and some parents didn’t go to work because of the pandemic.”
Normally the Angels would be able to help themselves with their Kiddy Camp, car washes and other fundraising events they do, but a lot of things are put on hold. Parents aren’t allowed to attend practice under the new rules in this phase.
“It was devastating for the seniors last year,” Castro said. “We had come home from nationals on a high. We had done better at national than in all of the years we had ever been there. We got an award for the highest score of every team that entered POM.”
For this year, the team feels like they have unfinished business. While practicing, Castro’s main concern is working on conditioning and technique. One of the highlights of the summer will be when the team receives their rings, which should be in August.
The team will have to learn at least two new dances and maybe a third. While they can only practice in pods of five at a time, Castro won’t put the new dance in until the whole team is together and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham gives the go-ahead for sports to return full time. For now, she will be content to make sure the kicks are down, the dance line is tight and the other little nuances that make the Angels the Angels.
“This group has been really good about getting along,” Castro said. “It’s the same team, we don’t look at any of the girls to be a problem. They know from being preached at every day, the only way they’re going to win is they have to bond and be one. It’s not enough to be technically good, we can be the best team and we have been the best team and still didn’t win. When that happens, then there is something missing. Our girls still want to win state.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.