COVID season doesn’t stop Gold Rush from National Championship

Photo courtesy Goldrush via Thomas Russ

The cheer squads of the Institute had an amazing year to remember. The cheerleading squad were ACC champs (which you can read about in Andy Borst’s lovely piece), and on top of that, the Goldrush squad were national champions for their hip hop routine.

By no means was it a normal year for Goldrush. The pandemic continually had its claws in how the team ran itself and performed compared to their normal methodology.

Their season still ran according to the same timeline as a normal season, since at the beginning it is largely dictated by the football and basketball seasons. It wasn’t until mid-August that they were practicing together in person.

  Auditions were held virtually for incoming freshmen early in the pandemic, a practice they had already been in place. All team members actually have to re-audition every year. No one’s spot is guaranteed year to year.

“I would not want to audition next year,” said graduating senior member of Goldrush, Thomas Russ. Both him and captain Lauren Piper were extremely enthusiastic about the incoming talent pool coming in for the 2021-2022 season.

What those freshmen are in for is no easy stretch. If you’ve been friends with a Goldrush member, it’s evident how much of a commitment it is, but equally evident to see that it’s an amazing time for those involved. 

Goldrush at a minimum practices three times a week for three hours each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the early evening. The gym they use doesn’t have strong air conditioning to the point their coach doesn’t bother using it. In the beginning of the school year, they practice their choreography with the band at the SAC fields since they march together on multiple occasions during gamedays. Their call time before home football games usually is four to five hours before kickoff. 

Their social media apparatus is completely internally run, and throughout a normal year they have multiple community events they will dance at, or participate in volunteer work.

Unlike the other main athletic pursuits at Tech, Goldrush isn’t an organization financially backed by the Athletic Department. 

“Every team member pays $750 in dues, and we usually fundraise about another $1,000 per person through the year,” said Piper. This year, however, with travel and events being severely limited, the additional fundraising was not as needed.

As football season ends, the basketball season picks up, where they perform at both men’s and women’s games. Those dances are much closer to what they perform at National Championships, since they can use their own music and work closer together in both prep and actual physical spacing. 

This year, Goldrush was restricted to a small number of dancers performing in the stands next to the band, with no live on-court performance. Recordings of full performances by them would be played on the McCamish video board during in-game breaks. 

The whole year in a sense is a long buildup to their dance at National Championships, a competition usually held in Daytona Beach, FL, but was held virtually this year.

The fact it was held virtually lended an opportunity for every school submitting a video of their routines to do it as many times as possible. When doing the competition in person, each team just gets one shot. 

“Our coach only gave us three recordings max for Nationals,” noted Piper. 

And it clearly paid off, as the team are Division I champs for hip-hop, and third in jazz behind North Texas and West Virginia. 

Compared to other sports, it’s as tight a window to perform as there can be. Goldrush performs over and over again throughout the year at other competitions for other sports. There are hundreds of dances they do, and the first time they perform in a normal year is a do or die scenario to qualify for finals. 

For both Piper and Russ though, the competition is not what the whole Goldrush experience is about.

“If we could improve one person’s gameday experience, it’s all worth it,” said Piper. Both also noted that Goldrush will be the most memorable part of their Tech experience.

For Russ, the first and only male to ever be part of Goldrush, the cohesiveness and camaraderie was still extended to him just as much as all the girls. 

“I love being part of my family,” he said. “They’ll be 29 of my sisters forever.”

“It’s kinda cheesy, but it’s cool to see how the differences [in the team] bring us together.”

With how enthusiastically they talked about each other and the team as a whole, in a sense there’s no surprise they perform as well as they do. The family bond is there. 

“[Our] connections will never go away. We go through so much together,” Russ said. 

If the incoming class is any predictor of what future success looks like, pair that with the chemistry this team has, and Goldrush will undoubtedly remain one of Tech’s treasures regardless of where or why they are performing.