AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — For the second consecutive year, the Amarillo High School Sandie Steppers had an all-state dancer representing them at the Texas Dance Educators Association convention.

Haley Mathes, a senior at Amarillo High, was one of 240 dancers from across the state who earned the right to compete at the convention. Mathes started dancing during her freshman year of high school after seeing the Sandie Steppers perform at her middle school.

“I never thought I would start as a dancer,” Mathes said. “I was originally a volleyball player and the steppers came to my middle school and I just instantly felt a spark and I knew that I wanted to try this new thing and be a part of this big family.”

Although Mathes has only been dancing since the ninth grade, her coach Kaylee Morrison said a person would never know that Mathes didn’t have the experience that some dancers have after starting at the age of three.

“This is really exciting for us at Amarillo High,” said Morrison. “If you watch Haley dance, she would look like she started dancing at three years old. She actually started dancing her freshmen year and that’s a big testament to her handwork and also to our team.”

Morrison shared that the culture of their team is built on hard work, perseverance and determination.

Over winter break, Mathes received the all-state material and began practicing on her own. With the support of her teammates, family and friends, it meant a lot to her to represent Amarillo.

When Mathes learned that she would be able to perform at TDEA it was a shock and now it’s something she said she would never forget.

“It was a big shock to me,” Mathes said. “I never thought that I would have the opportunity that I would have and going to Houston was an amazing experience and seeing other dancers from all over the state.”

With Mathes just starting dance four years ago, she wants other dancers to know anything is possible, no matter when they start dancing.

“I loved being able to go down there and show that not everyone has to have dance experience since they were three,” explained Mathes. “I only started my freshmen year and I just wanted to open up other opportunities for dancers like me.”

TDEA allows dance educators and dancers from across the state to go and receive professional development. Each year schools can select one dancer to attend. Out of all high school dance programs across the state 240 are chosen to attend.

Throughout the year, the Sandie Steppers perform at football games, pep rallies, community events and competitions. Morrison said having an ‘everything matters’ mindset is crucial for their success.

“You just want to be consistent all around,” stated Morrison. “From what you’re doing for pep rallies, what you’re doing for game day, and that carries over to the competition floor. You want to be good, and we have an ‘everything matters’ mindset. You perform a certain way, sideline, whatever we do with integrity and passion it’s going to carry over on the competition floor.”

Mathes was one of three dancers from the Amarillo Independent School District who performed at TDEA and her coach, teachers and members of the community believe she represents Amarillo well.

Morrison continued, “Haley is a great student, she is an outstanding Sandie. When I see her teachers in the hall, who have had her past and present, they are so excited to celebrate this with her. She really represents Amarillo well.”

Amarillo ISD is the only district in the Texas Panhandle that offers dance for students and Morrison hopes that other districts will follow suit after seeing the positives of dance programs in schools.

“I’m so proud of all four high schools in Amarillo,” explained Morrison. “All four are doing great things for students and hopefully through communities in the Panhandle seeing what we were doing, they’ll start to ask questions and see how they can offer dance in their communities as well.”

According to Morrison, dance offers a physical education credit or fine art credit for AISD schools. Both credits are needed for graduation.

Mathes will graduate from Amarillo High School in the spring and her dancing career is just beginning. During the convention, a collegiate showcase and fair took place, sparking Mathes’s interest in dancing at the collegiate level.

“I never thought I would dance in college but there was a collegiate showcase and saw Trinity Valley Community College and I’ve definitely been looking into that college, and I hope to join their team,” said Mathes.

The outpouring of support from Amarillo is something that won’t be forgotten by Mathes.

“The overwhelming amount of support from our community and AISD was just amazing, it was like a big family and there was just so much love,” Mathes shared.