JMU Winterguard Teaches Homecoming Performance to Highland Dance Team


Last weekend, over forty students from James Madison University traveled to Highland High School for two days of intense training.  As part of JMU’s Winterguard, they had two objectives: help teach the local Highland Dance Team a new routine for Homecoming and prepare for their upcoming international competitions.  JMU’s Winterguard has been using Highland County Public Schools’ gyms for several years at the initial coordination of former Highland High School Band Director, Jerry Philp.  He and his wife, Carly, participate in directing the Winterguard.  It is agreed that the Highland Dance Team will be taught by JMU annually in exchange for the use of Highland’s two gyms.

The Highland Dance Team this year is made up of six members.  The lone Senior is Sophie Hevener, who spoke to Allegheny Mountain Radio about her second experience of learning from JMU’s talented students.  She says, “It was a lot more interaction than the last time I remember.  We did a lot of exercises, like, one-on-one.  They showed us a lot of stuff, so I actually made a few friends.  They did exercises with us, kind of like a bonding thing.  They taught us some new little moves, and then they taught us a new dance, which is really fun because we were doing a lot of new stuff.  I liked it because they all seemed very enthusiastic, and they all seemed very together because that’s a group exercise, and there wasn’t a lot of conflict, which was nice.”

The Highland Dance Team plans to unveil their learned routine this Saturday, January 26th during the Homecoming basketball games against Narrows.  The Boys JV game begins at 1:00 p.m., and the Lady Rams Varsity game is scheduled for around 2:30 p.m.  The Dance Team will have a regular performance between games, but the new performance will take place during halftime of the second game.  Sophie adds, “We just really enjoy the support of our county coming out to the games, and just having so many people there really shows us that our county is very involved with basketball – not only that, but just to support us as well.”

Also, between the two basketballs games on Saturday, a Homecoming Court plans to be crowned, and Seniors and parents will be recognized.  In addition, all Highland High School alumni, not just athletic alumni, are invited to a reception.  Sophie has final thoughts on why it is important to have a Highland Dance Team.  She continues, “Well, I’ve always loved to dance, and then, to have that little family group that is your team, it’s just really nice to be able to bond while dancing.  That’s the cool part about it.”

And as for her thoughts on her last big performance at Highland High School?  “It’s nice because I get to go out on a boom!” she says with a smile.

Sophie hopes to continue dance in some form in the future, as well as to have some JMU students attend the performance this Saturday.  Highland Dance Team coaches Ann Foster and Ashley Hutchinson hope to take their dance team to see a JMU Winterguard performance in the near future.  More on the Winterguard can be found at the website link posted with this story on

On a fun side note, Dance Coach Ashley’s 5-month-year-old son, Kenner, who has been affectionately called “Little Rocky the Ram,” was in attendance during the interview and may have been heard in the background.

More info on the James Madison University Winterguard can be found at:

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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