It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the John Glenn High School Pompon Team
wasn’t shy about employing that technique when they went before the America’s Got Talent (AGT) judges recently. Donning bald caps, the 13 teens stepped onstage looking eerily similar to judge Howie Mandel.
Prior to this very public moment for the team, hard work and dedication behind the scenes had paved the way for successes big and small.
While the team waits for word from America's Got Talent, they're working on their next show.
Coach Shelby Putnam, a former John Glenn Pom and 2004 alumna herself, says the team placed second in the state this year at the Mid American Pompon State Championship. The team had placed first the four previous seasons. In the Mid American High Kick Competition, the team made it atop the podium for the first time in decades in November of 2021.
Coaches and team members say people stop they all the time to ask about the shoutout from Pitbull and their performance on America's Got Talent.
“During that competition (high kick), the team got to choose a theme and they chose to be Pitbull. So, they had a routine that was all about Pitbull music, and they were the Latin rapper himself. They put on bald caps and tuxedo jackets, and their routine got a lot of attention. We won the competition and John Glenn has not won the competition since the ’90s.”
Understandably, the team was over the moon with the first-place ranking, and likely they would have been content just knowing that their routine had been successful on the state stage.
Coach Shelby Putnam says the team gives her reason to be proud everyday.
As fate would have it, a recording of the Pitbull routine
was put on social media and shared over and over, until it went viral on TikTok, even earning the team a shout-out from the artist Pitbull himself.
Putnam said it was just before Thanksgiving that they were contacted about taking their act even further. “They went viral on TikTok with 8 million views, and after that we had somebody reach out and say ‘Would you be interested in trying out for America’s Got Talent?’ We said, ‘Heck yes!’ “
Makayla Olson, in the Varsity PomPon shirt, at a recent team practice.
And then things went quiet. The team had been told that their video would be put before AGT staff and that if they were wanted for an audition, they would likely hear from someone in January.
January passed. And then February. Some shrugged and thought how special it was that they had even been considered.
However, on a March evening, Putnam received a call at home requesting that the team come to Pasadena, Calif. to perform their act in front of the judging panel and a massive audience.
The public acclaim comes on the heels of months of practice and hard work.
The team whipped into action. “We were inspired by our Pitbull routine, but we took a different route when it was for AGT. We decided to flatter our favorite judge, Howie Mandel.
Why not get Howie on Team John Glenn Poms? He’s known to be harder on dance teams, so we thought maybe if he could see himself as a dancer, maybe he’d be a little more into it.”
Working on the new routine with such little time to prepare was a challenge, according to junior member Lauren Zarazua. “When we found out, it was around spring break time, so we had to work around people being on vacation and not able to go to practices. So, we only had a few weeks to actually come up with the routine and finalize things for California. We had to work twice as hard to make sure we were all ready to perform.”
Practice goes on, even when school isn't in session.
Thirteen of the 14 pompon team members made the trek to California, along with an entourage of chaperones and parents.
Lillian Rocha, a 2022 John Glenn graduate member, says there were certainly some nerves as they took the stage. Rocha says, “The most intimidating thing for me was definitely walking out on stage and seeing Simon Cowell. Just in person. He’s always one of those intimidating kinds of guys, but to see him in person was just like – wow! I think he puts on a front almost. I feel like deep down he is a good guy and he likes everybody.”
Before the television appearance, the team placed second in the state at the Mid American Pompon State Championship.
Putnam says after the team performed their now-aired routine, they received excellent feedback from the judges. In the end, the excitement of being on the big stage definitely outweighed the nerves, according to another recently graduated member, Myleigh Kocks.
“I feel like we all had the most fun we’ve ever had performing because it was such a different stage and a different environment for us, that we all just cherished every second of it, because we didn’t think this would ever happen in our life. So, we were all just so happy to be there together. We had a blast,” Kocks said.
Concentration is evident on Ava Norton's face during a summer practice.
The team received yes votes from all four judges, giving them the possibility to advance to the live shows that begin Aug. 9. After judges deliberate, acts moving on will be announced.
When their audition routine aired on July 19, fans around the Great Lakes Bay Region tuned in to watch their hometown pompon heroes.
Just before Thanksgiving, the team was invited to submit a video audition for America's Got Talent. In March, they heard back that they were invited to appear live on stage before the judges.
At John Glenn High School
, a viewing party was held for the team, along with friends and family. Complete with a red carpet and golden statues, the event allowed a space for the group to share the moment. Even the team had not yet seen a recording of their performance.
Putnam has been impressed by the outpouring of support and love for the team. Whether it be from other pom teams throughout the state or a group of locals at the chiropractor, everywhere she has turned lately, the community has been there in excitement right alongside her.
The team only had a few weeks to choreograph and learn a routine for the televised audition.
“Everyone is geeked. Everywhere I go, people walk up and say, ‘Is it true?’ ‘When are they going to be on?’ The community support and the amount of people who are so excited, it’s just bonkers. We’re so excited that our community has been there to support us and that they are just as excited as we are. We are excited to share it with our community,” Putnam says.
And while Putnam is certainly proud of her team’s efforts on AGT, she says her team is consistently giving her something to be proud of. “I am always very, very proud of these women and the way they represent not only themselves but this community. To say I was bursting with pride would be an understatement, but honestly, I feel that way every day.”
In November of 2021 at the Mid American High Kick Competition, the team made it atop the podium for the first time in decades.
Moving forward, while the team is eagerly awaiting the judges’ deliberations, the new 2022-23 team is hard at work practicing for the upcoming season and plotting ways to improve.
Putnam says, “I think our main goal is always to beat John Glenn, to make each performance we do better than the last. We want to beat our previous best to ensure that we are growing.
Jessica Foss rehearses with the award-winning John Glenn Pompon team
We’re not necessarily going to AGT again next year or anything like that, but it raises our bar for what we expect from our performances, and we will have a reputation.”
Until AGT sends word about the live shows, you can find Putnam and the team in the gym putting in the work; however, the positivity of the experience is still evident.
Putnam says, “One team. One heart. One love. We’re just feeling the love.”