Breaking It Down To Show It Out

Owen+O%27Conner%2C+preforms+alongside+JV+Eagle+Elite+dancers+in+the+homecoming+pep-rally+drive+through.+

Christine v

Owen O’Conner, preforms alongside JV Eagle Elite dancers in the homecoming pep-rally drive through.

By Christine Vo, Lake Ridge High School

Complete uniformity throughout the team with sparkling attire, one member stands out from the rest. Junior, Owen O’Conner is the only male member among the many female dancers. 

On Thursday, October 1st, O’Conner made his debut on the JV Eagle Elite team, as the first male drill team member in the Mansfield Independent School District. Breaking the norm, O’Conner tried out for the team after being a part of dance teacher Amie Harris’ dance class in previous years. Entering his junior year, his peers encouraged him to push himself to try something new. Overjoyed with the results, O’Conner was welcomed with open arms. 

“I was ecstatic, I was literally jumping up and down. They welcomed me in such a way that was really nice. I was in dance concerts and dances in musicals before, but I had not been on the drill team, until this year. A lot of friends told me that I was a good enough dancer to make it, so I was like, ‘You know what, I like dancing, so I’ll just join,’” said O’Conner. 

Cheering on the sidelines, Junior JV Cheerleader Baylee Rosson saw O’Conner at his first performance. Rosson has known O’Conner since 8th grade. There was nothing but words of affirmation when Rosson shared her experience with O’Conner. 

“I was shocked because like, it took me a minute to realize that there was a boy on the team and that it was Owen. It all made sense when I realized it was Owen. In the eighth-grade talent show, he performed. He was a really big singer, but something had gone wrong with his microphone, and he wasn’t able to sing. So he just danced. I remember him dancing and then seeing him on the drill team, it all made sense. This is his element and he definitely showed that it was his element when he started dancing out there on the field. He was great,” said Rosson. 

When O’Conner approached Harris with the idea of trying out for the team, she was more than willing to give him that opportunity. Harris allowed her classroom to be an open space for students to grow and be themselves. Harris recognized Lake Ridge’s efforts to be one step ahead in creating a diverse community and wanted to be a part of a bigger change. 

“Everyone is so excited for him. I’m very excited to say that we’re the first Mansfield ISD drill team to have a male member on our team, which is so forward. I think it’s what Lake Ridge is about. We are always setting the bar and going for things that are before everybody else. Owen being on the team is just a great example of that. We also have a female kicker on the JV football team. So I think we’re showing that those things aren’t gender-specific anymore. It’s about what you want to do, what you enjoy doing,” said Harris.

A year after having Lake Ridge’s first female football player, Lake Ridge continues to break records. Karsen Koehler, sophomore, was named Lake Ridge’s second female kicker in 2019. Koehler has learned to go against the odds no matter the circumstances and has admired what O’Conner has done for Eagle Elite. 

“I’m very excited for him. I love that we are breaking the gender roles that past generations have taught us is normal. I love that we’re changing things, and proving that you don’t have to be a boy or a girl to do a certain type of activity. All the power to this individual for taking part in something that they love, and not letting anything hold them back,” said Koehler.

In any journey trying to change the status quo, there are expected concerns. Each Eagle Elite dancer brings their own presence and Owen does not shy away from putting down his all. JV Junior Lieutenant Savannah Williams, had initial worries when she heard O’Conner tried out for the team, but as practices continued, Williams recognized O’Conner’s passion. 

“I was worried that he’d be made fun of or like he’d be self-conscious, but he came in and killed it. And I love it. I love every second of it and I’m so happy that he’s so happy. Owen just brings everything to the table and I love it. He has sass, You can’t get another Owen. Owen is Owen, and he kills it every time he comes out there he has so much energy. He’s so happy to be here. He’s just Owen, and Owen just brings everything to the table and I love it,” said Williams. 

O’Conner has created an opportunity for a male perspective. Each dancer brings in a different personality, creating a unique team. JV Eagle Elite member, Cecelia Roberts, freshman, recognizes O’Conner’s impact.

“He’s an amazing dancer. And I think he has really good energy with it too. He’s brought a lot, he’s a great teammate, and he’s very positive and he always loves to compliment others,” said Roberts.

Rosson sees O’Conner being a part of the Eagle Elite as an opportunity and an inspiration to other students. Since there have never been written requirements against inclusion, the possibilities are endless. Rosson hopes this experience continues to give students a place in which they find a passion. 

“I think it’s going to open a new door. I’ve never seen a boy on the drill team for any schools. It’s going to bring out more boys to join the team; boys that were maybe afraid or didn’t know they could be on the team. It’s going to change a little bit how we do our sports, we’re going to be seeing more boys on teams and I think that’s really great. It gives us more representation, it’s a showstopper. It catches people’s eyes when you see a boy, on a team that’s prominently girls or a girl as on a team that’s prominently boys, and it makes you want to watch. I think that’s something that we could use to our advantage,” said Rosson.

Lake Ridge has continuously made an effort to represent the voice of the students. Eagle Elite doesn’t want the change to end with O’Conner. Paving the way for other schools, Williams believes Lake Ridge has a chance to set an example. 

“I think it really tells people to step it up. I think it’s really telling that Lake Ridge is like ‘We’re here’ and like ‘We’re different,’ but we’re different for a good reason. And we’re really setting the bar high for other people,” said Williams.

O’Conner has started a journey he hopes to continue throughout college. Continuously creating a new normal, O’Conner is prepared to test the boundaries. Although O’Conner is not sure what is to come, he is excited to be living in the moment. No matter the size of the crowd, one thing stays consistent, O’Conner finds his true self in the spotlight.  

“It’s honestly such an amazing title. I’m happy to be the first. If anyone else wanted to do something like this, I’d say break the norm and just do it. I really love performing. It just gives me a sense of honor and pride,” said O’Conner.

This story was originally published on Eagle Nation News on February 3, 2021.