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Lower Richland Diamond Dawgs take step show Mayor’s Cup

Posted: March 5, 2013 4:45 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.

All men. All out. That combination earned the praise of both a packed audience and judges at Camden High School’s (CHS) basketball gymnasium for Lower Richland High School’s Diamond Dawgs to win Saturday night. Wearing black clothes and gold ties, the team took the high school Mayor’s Cup at the 2013 Camden step show and took the crowd by storm.

For the uninitiated, stepping (or step-dancing) uses each participant’s entire body -- feet, hands, voice -- to create a performance that combines elements of gymnastics, break- and tap-dancing, and modern urban rhythms. There has been a step show in Camden for seven years; Saturday’s was the first to be held at CHS due to scheduling conflicts at Rhame Arena, its normal venue. No one seemed to mind, the CHS gymnasium being only slightly smaller than Rhame and still affording the audience an “in-the-round” feel to the event.

The Dawgs were the one team that didn’t just get the hundreds of spectators on their feet -- they kept them there with one series of moves after another. Each set of moves ended with the team’s signature: hooked fingers up by the sides of their heads -- dog ears.

Coming in second in the high school division were Southern Dynasty, a mostly-girls (with one young man) group from Columbia; third place went to a step team from Lugoff-Elgin High School, competing for the first time.

Camden Mayor Tony Scully joined host and organizer Brian Mayes of Family Outreach Ministries to hand out awards, including a second Mayor’s Cup in the middle school division. The Irmo Middle School IMS Stepperz took that award, keeping a record going of placing in the top three in each competition it has entered. Only one other middle school team competed: A.R. Rucker Middle School, taking home a trophy for its efforts as well.

“This is my first time here,” Scully said. “I have wanted to come for years.”

The evening started about 40 minutes late, apparently waiting on a team to arrive from Sumter, but that gave more time for family, friends and fans to take their seats. The audience -- as it has at previous step shows -- ranged from toddlers to grandparents.

“I want to thank all of you for continuing to support us for the past seven years,” Mayes told the audience when things got underway.

The official start to the evening began with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Kima Bracey, of the Kershaw County Diamonds. Bracey and her fellow Diamonds were originally known as the Lil’ Diamonds until reaching their middle school years. Per tradition, the KC Diamonds did not compete, but did perform, much to the delight of friends and family who have seen them grow up during the last few years.

“This group of ladies makes us proud all the time,” Mayes said before the Diamonds took the floor. “Everywhere we take them, they support the other teams. They were in first and second grade when they were the Lil’ Diamonds … give it up for the Kershaw County Diamonds!”

In addition to the two Mayor’s Cup competitions, two duos competed for the Towell Foundation Dance Award. CHS alum Jalen Loney, who is a former member of the Rho Chi Kobraz step team, and his partner, Shanica Gray, took the award, beating out two ladies from Lower Richland High School. Loney, a dance and theater student at Benedict College, and Gray started their routine in the stands, Loney doing most of the dancing first, then joined by Gray in a performance that got the crowd very excited.

Several years ago, when the step show moved from Phelps Auditorium to Rhame, former Camden City Councilman Ned Towell was urged to come on the dance floor and try some moves. Before handing out the Towell award on behalf of his family, he was urged back on the dance floor, picking up some moves from Constance Torrez of the KC Diamonds and a boy from the audience.

Even before the competition began, several performers treated the audience to some fun, including Knight Train, the Crestwood (Sumter) High School drumline. Later in the evening, Mayes introduced the evening’s special guest: rapper Galaxy Rich, a 2008 CHS graduate whose real name is Richard Nelson. Currently attending Clark University in Atlanta, Galaxy Rich has a new CD out called Death by Design.

“He performed at the (Charlotte) Bobcat stadium, performing the song in an effort to stop the violence over kids killing for shoes,” Mayes explained.

He said Charlotte Bobcats owner and basketball legend Michael Jordan is involved, but was unsure as to the scope of his role in Galaxy Rich’s career.

The rapper obviously enjoyed being back on his home court, having played basketball for CHS. He and Mayes had five kids, including one girl, come out to compete in a basketball goal contest. The girl and one of the boys won after two rounds of attempts, garnering hearty applause from the audience.

Saturday’s step show also provided Mayes with the chance to get parents to sign their kids up for a new mentoring program being launched in the county.

“PACT -- Positive Actions Changes Tomorrow -- is a new mentoring program that includes all that we have done in the past when it comes to working with children,” Mayes said. “The program will include mentoring, singing, dancing, stepping and about everything you can ask for.”

Mayes said anyone with a child between the ages of 10 and 19 can call 243-0732 for more information.

“We will also continue to make relationships with colleges and universities to assist children in those areas,” he said.

The Diamonds and other kids involved with Mayes sent out a special message to his wife, Roberta, acknowledging that she “fought hard to keep the team going” after losing her sister around this time last year.

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