Jewels of Missouri High School Dance

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- Next week over several days, dozens of talented, eager, smart teenagers will try out for one of the metro area's most remarkably successful high school programs. Liberty High School is holding auditions for next year's Sapphire dance and pom team.

And whoever is chosen will be out to build on a multi-year dynasty of championships for this week's Reaching 4 Excellence young achievers -- the Liberty Sapphires.Their motto is, "Once a Sapphire, Always a Sapphire." They are shimmering jewels of high school dance and pom in Missouri -- the Sapphires of Liberty High School.

The Sapphires' pom performance dazzled the judges in February's Missouri state championships -- a routine of amazing precision and awesome athleticism and energy. And their dance performance at State was brimming with crowd-pleasing artistry and expression. It was no surprise to anyone that the Sapphires came home as Missouri big school state champions.

"They take things very seriously," says Maggie Willis, the Sapphires' varsity head coach. "They are self-motivated. They are driven to do well. They spend hours perfecting one number that may be two minutes in length but it looks just phenomenal and it's perfection out there. And if they made it look easy, they have done their jobs right."

State titles in dance and pom are becoming a tradition for the Sapphires. The 2012 championship is the team's third in the last four years. Senior and co-captain Brooke McPheeters was part of all of them.

"I feel like every single girl in here is a leader in some way," says Brooke. "They all put in something different on this team. And every single person is just amazing in what they do. These girls are just awesome. I love them so much."

Doing dance and pom is very demanding -- physically, of course, and in terms of time. For the Sapphires, it almost never stops, going from spring troyouts through summer workouts and rehearsals and then on to practices and performances at games and events all school year long. And the girls also do private dance school practices and performances. Junior Macayla Witt wouldn't have it any other way.

"If you're passionate about something, you'll go for it every single day," says Macayla. "It'll run you down. I'm exhausted on the weekends. But I wake up every Monday morning and can't wait to come to practice. We're all passionate about what we do. There's not a single one of us that doesn't love to dance. It just brightens your day every single day to walk in here and be part of this."

So, the Sapphires have established this phenomenal dynasty as state champion dance performers. But there's something else they are equally proud of that's just as big a priority for them -- how well they do in the classroom. The Sapphires are also the Missouri big school All-Academic state champions three of the past four years.

"Their talent is amazing but on top of that they're incredible young women," says Coach Willis. "They work hard not only in practices and for performances but in the classroom, in the community."

It's a standard and a legacy first year Sapphires like Trystan Brown are determined to build on.

"Not only our dancing makes this team strong but our work ethic," says Trystan. "Every day we come to practice, we work, work, work. And it pays off so much in the end. Winning State is just the cherry on top of everything. I feel like we've worked so hard for it. It really makes me appreciate how much time and effort we've put into this."

Once a Sapphire -- always a Sapphire.

FOX 4   News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.

Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.

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