Student-athletes display fancy footwork on stage

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

They wowed the judges with their flashy garb and 1970s-style afro wigs.

Thomas Jefferson senior athletes Jesse Hinkle and Jordan Campano traded in their running shoes and cleats for sparkle and glam.

Dancing the disco to KC and the Sunshine Band's “I'm Your Boogie Man,” they raised money for a good cause and drove the nearly full auditorium crowd at Thomas Jefferson wild with their energetic performance.

“It was extremely entertaining,” Jesse, 18, said of the dance. “The crowd was literally going insane.”

Ten Thomas Jefferson athletes, from a variety of sports, took the stage last Wednesday for the fourth annual, “Dancing with the Athletes,” sponsored by student council. The high school senior athletes, in a format similar to ABC's hit series “Dancing with the Stars,” were paired with a trained dancer who choreographed a routine to one of several genres.

The event raised $2,000 for the Children's Free Care Fund and $1,400 for Trucks for Maddox.

Hinkle and Campano were crowned the winners. Thomas Jefferson senior athlete Bryce Churilla, 17, and junior dancer Taylor Childers, 17, were named audience favorite.

The winning couple – selected by judges Sandy Barker, Thomas Jefferson English teacher and spring musical director; Jenna Freund and Lisa DiGorio-Miller – received the “Golden Shoe.” All proceeds from the event also went to their selected charity. The couple selected as “crowd favorite” had all funds donated by attendees given to their charity.

There also were three judges awards given this year. They went to Pat Hall, who danced with Becky Stem; Asher Williams and Sydney Stromberg; and Brenden Ward and Leah Rowan.

Hinkle and Campano considered themselves the “underdogs” in this year's competition because they both are athletes: Hinkle competes in volleyball, basketball and track at Thomas Jefferson and Campano is a baseball player and bowler.

Hinkle used to dance until middle school when she quit to spend more time with sports, so the two were without an “expert” to choreograph their routine, they said.

“We watched a lot of Soul Train and went with it,” said Campano, 18.

The idea was to have fun and raise money for a good cause, he said.

Hinkle and Campano selected the Children's Free Care Fund because they both hope to go into occupational therapy and help the sick, they said.

Childers and Churilla chose “Trucks for Maddox” as their charity.

Childers, a Thomas Jefferson cheerleader, said the school's varsity cheerleading squad was at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium the day that Maddox Derkosh, 2, of Whitehall died there inside the African painted dog exhibit. So, she wanted to do something to help show support for the Derkosh family, which is collecting trucks in the young boy's honor.

Dancing the mambo, Childers and Churilla entertained the audience with their performance of “Para Los Rumberos” by Santana.

Churilla, a volleyball player, has danced in the musicals but never anything to the extent of the mambo, he said.

“I really didn't even know it existed until we started,” Churilla said.

So, the two watched YouTube videos and had fun with it – constantly changing their choreography until the week of the performance – always keeping the audience in mind.

“We tried to get them involved,” Childers said.

This year's performance stood out from previous years, performers agreed. But it's the premise of the show that makes people return each year for more.

“People just really like watching people who can't dance learn how to dance and I think they just like to see how the dancers respond to someone with very little experience,” Hinkle said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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