IHSA names Hess Competitive Dance Official of the Year


AWARD WINNIN’ GRIN: Holding her son, the late Paula Hess, former Titan Poms choreographer, sports her letterman jacket, decorated with patches from previous competitions she participated in. Photo courtesy of Julie Smith

John Schurer, co-news editor

On Jan. 12, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced the late Paula Hess as the 2016-2017 Competitive Dance Official of the Year for her work as the Titan Poms choreographer and other achievements.

In addition to her work with the Titan Poms, Hess served on the committee for the IHSA’s Dance State Series and was the tournament manager at the inaugural state final competition in 2013—all while battling Metastatic Breast Cancer.

According to Tracie Henry, IHSA assistant executive director, Hess’s brilliance and passion earned her widespread respect as a dance official.

“What made her so special was her ability to connect with people,” Henry said. “Everyone loved her. She had a way of bringing people together and bringing calm to any situation. She was integral to dance becoming an IHSA sport and we miss her every day.”

Julie Smith, Varsity Titan Poms coach, shared a close friendship with Hess and watched her impact on dance perpetually expand over time.

“I think [the recognition] is a wonderful way to honor her in yet another capacity in which she worked,” Smith said. “My hope is that her [influence] and legacy continues [for years to come].”

Senior Olivia Landsman, Varsity Titan Poms captain, says that Hess had always served as the team’s inspiration, but now they have dedicated their entire season to her.

“We feel that she is looking down on us and smiling because we have had all this success so far in the season,” Landsman said.

As the Titan Poms headed off to Orlando, Florida for the Universal Dance Association’s National Dance Team Championship on Feb. 2, they felt incomplete without Hess by their side, according to Landsman.

“On the one hand, it is going to be really sad that she won’t be there physically with us,” Landman said. “But what is really special about this year is that we can feel she is with us every time we perform.”