By Donovan Thomas, Campus Editor
The Howard University Step Team won the 9th Annual Hit ‘Em With the Beats Step Competition on Saturday, Nov. 9 marking the team’s third championship at Princeton University in the last five years, after having won in 2015 and 2016. Ashon Mask, the team’s performance coordinator and a Howard class of 2016 alumnus, directed the show, an 8-minute performance inspired by the 2000 comedy movie, Bring It On, created with the team in mind.
“Most of us were cheerleaders in the past in high school. [Mask] wanted to find a way to incorporate that into our performance so that we could each bring a part of ourselves. Gabrielle Union is an icon and he really wanted us to find strength in ourselves, so that led us to choose Bring It On,” said sophomore computer information systems major Amaya Causey.
For many on the team on the team, it was their first time competing off Howard’s campus, an experience that was initially intimidating.
“It was a really nice experience. It was a very big campus, so when I got there I was a bit intimidated. All in all, we had a lot of crowd participation and it made us feel comfortable,” said freshman political science major Asia George.
With 12 new members, the team began practicing on Oct. 14 and had nearly four weeks to prepare for the competition. Practices were held for two hours on three days within each week with members working on blades, precision, formations, endurance and full-body conditioning.
“We are athletes at the end of the end. It is definitely not easy. You get a full-body workout and you will feel it the next day,” said junior sports medicine major and team vice president Chidera Onwunaka.
It can be difficult for an all-female team to navigate a physically demanding and sometimes male-dominated sport.
“When boys perform, you see more energy. We basically have to be twice as good. Even though we can do the same step and we can do it better and more precise, when you see a male step it’s like they killed it. We just have to be twice as good,” said senior nursing major and team president Anaya Davis.
Outside of competing, the team is a service-oriented organization and strives to give back to the community. Every month they participate in service activities and they also founded a step team at the Howard University Middle School for Mathematics and Science Squared, which is in its third year.
“We are there twice a week teaching them steps for the entire school. It’s really fun. It definitely helps the kids build confidence and discipline within themselves,” said Davis.
Howard University Step Team Members with Howard University Middle School for Mathematics and Science Squared Step Team. Courtesy of the Howard University Step Team.
Alumni play a vital role within the team, with many of them coming back to help coach, lead and help with donations. The team thanked their performance coordinator, Ashon Mask for all of the work he has done.
“I think that it was very motivating to take home first place. For me personally, it was my first time competing outside of Howard. To see something tangible and see that it goes outside the Howard bubble and to see even Princeton [students] supporting is something that we will remember for the rest of our lives,” said sophomore computer information systems major Amaya Causey.
The Howard University Step Team plans to host their own step show in collaboration with the organization, World of Step, on campus next semester. They intend to invite schools from within the region and farther to compete.
“I feel step culture on this campus is dying. On other campuses, it’s an everyday thing. I want to bring step back to this campus. You don’t have to be part of the Divine Nine or a ResFest team to step. You can get with the winning team, join us, and compete outside of that. That’s our goal here,” said Anaya Davis.