As the Missouri State University Sugar Bears get ready to celebrate their 45th anniversary in 2021, they’re also preparing for something else: Induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
The Sugar Bears dance team is one of 21 inductees in the Class of 2021, and they’ll be honored at a ceremony on January 31 in Springfield.
Emily Dryden has been the Sugar Bears head coach for two years, was an assistant coach before that and was on the team from 2007 to 2011. She said being chosen for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is an honor for a college dance team program with a strong history.
"We've been competing since the late 80s and most often placing in the top 10 every year, very often placing in the top five, said Dryden, "so I think this really just shows how strong it's been for so long and how great of a reputation that the Sugar Bears really do have in the dance community."
The team has placed in the top 10 at the UCA/UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships for the past 12 years.
"Collegiately, especially in Missouri, we're one of the strongest teams year in and year out," said Dryden, "and so I think it really just shows that this program has been built on the talents of all the alumni over and over, the strong reputation continues, and we hope that it will continue on."
The Sugar Bears originated in the 1970s when a couple of students saw a gap in opportunities for dancers at the university. Dryden said they worked with the dean of women to hold a tryout, and the team danced at their first football game halftime in the fall of 1976.
Besides performing at sports events and competitions, the Sugar Bears are active in the community. A description on the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame's website states that the Sugar Bears "host an annual high school dance team competition, visit children at Mercy Kids Hospital, and participate in community service projects."
Any current or past member of the Sugar Bears is invited to attend the ceremony later this month. They can reach out to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame for more information at (417) 889-3100.