A Leap of Faith

Junior Leads Celebrities, shares goals for team

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A Leap of Faith

Sitting on the Gupton stadium football field on Sept.27, junior Celebrities captain Rylee Tonacao performs at halftime with fellow team members. When Tonacao received the news that she was chosen as the 2019-2020 Celebrities dance captain, she was shocked.

Sitting on the Gupton stadium football field on Sept.27, junior Celebrities captain Rylee Tonacao performs at halftime with fellow team members. When Tonacao received the news that she was chosen as the 2019-2020 Celebrities dance captain, she was shocked. "It's not that dance teams or drill team in general have like a set [grade]," Tonacao said. "But typically captains are seniors and I just had that mindset going in. So, obviously I was shocked."

photo by Emi Cachila

Sitting on the Gupton stadium football field on Sept.27, junior Celebrities captain Rylee Tonacao performs at halftime with fellow team members. When Tonacao received the news that she was chosen as the 2019-2020 Celebrities dance captain, she was shocked. "It's not that dance teams or drill team in general have like a set [grade]," Tonacao said. "But typically captains are seniors and I just had that mindset going in. So, obviously I was shocked."

photo by Emi Cachila

photo by Emi Cachila

Sitting on the Gupton stadium football field on Sept.27, junior Celebrities captain Rylee Tonacao performs at halftime with fellow team members. When Tonacao received the news that she was chosen as the 2019-2020 Celebrities dance captain, she was shocked. "It's not that dance teams or drill team in general have like a set [grade]," Tonacao said. "But typically captains are seniors and I just had that mindset going in. So, obviously I was shocked."

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Following several interviews, speeches and performances, while sitting at her kitchen table having dinner on, junior Rylee Tonacao received unexpected news. 

After initially auditioning to become First Lieutenant, Tonacao was chosen as the next Celebrities captain. 

“I screamed,” Tonacao said. “First I was just excited to make it, but then, not going to lie, whenever it started to sink in, I was so overwhelmed. ‘Am I responsible enough?’ ‘What are people gonna think?’ Everything was going through my head.”

Tonacao’s shock was also induced by the fact that previous captains were often seniors.

“It’s not that dance teams or drill teams in general have like a set [grade],” Tonacao said. “But typically captains are seniors and I just had that mindset going in. So, obviously I was shocked.”

When her position as captain was announced at last year’s Celebrities banquet, Tonacao said that she felt an indescribable amount of support from her team.

“I have never felt that much support from anyone in my life,” Tonacao said. “And I don’t think any other captain previously has probably had that much support in the past. It’s a really great feeling to have a team that stands behind you.”

Tonacao began her dance journey at the age of three after her mother, a former ballet dancer, enrolled her in dance classes. She said that her main motivation for continuing dance for so long is the combination of art and athleticism found in dance. 

Tonacao holds T-Wolf sign in the air before the Cedar Ridge football game on Sept. 6.

“I think the thing that I most appreciate about dance is the artistic ability as well as the athletic ability,” Tonacao said. “Because with sports it’s very athletic but with dance you have to make it look easy [as well], and it’s that component that I adore.” 

Although Tonacao felt overwhelmed and unprepared at the beginning, she said that with the help of last year’s captain, Caiti Dodge, and her fellow line officers,  she was able to adjust to the role. 

“[Caiti] was a huge mentor to me,” Tonacao said. “She just helped me through a lot and basically showed me how to lead.” 

To ensure that she’s a good leader, Tonacao said she keeps in mind to not be a hypocrite. 

“If there’s something that I’m telling them to be accountable for, it’s something that I should [also] be accountable for,” Tonacao said. “That’s something that my fellow officers and I keep in check with the directors. Just walking the walk and talking the talk.”

Tonacao said the most important role as captain, for her, is creating bonds with the team members as well as ensuring everyone on the team is doing well and creating 

“There is an important relationship between the captain and her teammates, a trust factor is important to keep the team going,” Tonacao said. “I need to make sure that every person on [the] team feels safe, [has] a positive spot and enjoy what they’re doing. Almost like being a friend first and then a captain.” 

If there’s something that I’m telling them to be accountable for, it’s something that I should [also] be accountable for. That’s something that my fellow officers and I keep in check with the directors. Just walking the walk and talking the talk.”

— Rylee Tonacao (11)

Balancing classes, her social life as well as leading the team all comes down to time management and organization, Tonacao said. 

“It’s a rule in my house that school comes first, so obviously I prioritize that,” Tonacao said. “But at the same time, I don’t leave my team to suffer. It’s definitely hard and challenging and there are so many late nights, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

This year, Tonacao said she hopes to not only improve the team’s dance skills and establish a great name for the Celebrities, but also make sure that they are having fun. 

“That’s the main thing,” Tonacao said. “There is so much [going on] with school and being stressed out [and] you don’t know what’s going on at home or [with] friendships and relationships, I just want Celebrities to be a place that they feel safe and not something that they ever have to worry about.”