WINSLOW — Saturday just before noon, the most competitive event of the high school sports preseason, if not the entire fall, took place at Winslow High School. The participants look forward to this all off season. For the winner, it can set the tone for the season to come.

Of course, we’re talking about the annual dance contest during the Winslow field hockey play day.

Before the teams get caught up in the regular-season playoff chase and rivalries, and before parents and fans get wrapped up in playing time and perceived mistakes made by officials, the dance off was a reminder that high school sports are supposed to be fun.

“We love doing things like that,” Winslow senior Mariah Morrison said after she and the Black Raiders danced and sang their way to the championship.

The prize was ice cream and bragging rights. Bragging rights make a great prize, because it can be as big as you want to make it.

There were 22 teams at the Winslow play day. Eight of them took part in the lunch break dance off. Surrounded by teams and fans lounging on the field, each dance off team did a routine ranging between 30 seconds and a few minutes. Just before taking the field, Winslow quickly rehearsed in a nearby equipment shed.

The hour-long break in the field hockey action came at the request of officials, Mary Beth Bourgoin, Winslow’s coach, said.

“We felt like we needed something going on during the break,” Bourgoin said.

A skills competition was suggested, but that sounded like work. A dance off sounded like an absolute blast. It was a hit, and this was its third year.

Winslow took first place with a routine danced to Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody.” Halfway through the number, sophomore Leah Knight brought applause with a jump and flip from the back of the Black Raiders dance troupe to the front.

“We were going to have somebody else do it, but they couldn’t. I used to do gymnastics, so I just practiced a little,” Knight said.

The choreographers of Winslow’s dance were eighth grader Lizzie Schmitt and seventh grader Malin Beaster, competitive dancers who were excited to see the Black Raiders nail the routine. The team practiced an hour on Thursday, and another half hour Friday. Knowing the other teams would bring their best moves, Winslow was ready. Field hockey sticks were used as faux microphones and canes.

With their victory barely minutes old, Schmitt and Beaster were already planning next year’s moves.

“We’re changing this, we’re changing that,” Beaster said.

Mt. Ararat took second place, and performed in leopard print outfits brought along just for the occasion. Morse took third with a cartwheel and flip routine fueled by ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Last year, Gardiner featured an athlete twirling a flaming baton. This year, Gardiner did not enter the contest, and the only fire prop was a sparkler used by Winthrop.

Some athletes danced in their goalie pads. A few Mt. Blue athletes wore wigs. It was a lot of team building. More importantly, it was fun.

While everyone waited for the judges to render their decision, the teams gathered on the field and danced together to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” Later, they would go back to playing field hockey against each other. There’s a long season ahead. There will be a lot of field hockey played. There was a lot of field hockey played Saturday at Winslow. But in the middle of it all, it was good to take a break and just dance.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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