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Jamie Vaught: Twice the fun seeing double on UK Dance squad; and some favorite sports books

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When I was a little kid growing up in Kentucky, I remember seeing pictures of twins cheering for UK during the early 1970s.

And I’m referring to the daughters of ex-Wildcat basketball standout Dale Barnstable who were easy to spot on the floor or on the field as Patricia and Priscilla “Cyb” Barnstable were identical blondes.

Later, the TV actresses were also known for Wrigley’s chewing gum TV commercial as the Doublemint Twins.

And if you fast-forward to recent years, you will recognize some names of UK twins in athletics like Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Alex and Alexis Poythress, and Zack and Daron Blaylock.

That’s not all.  How about the twins on the current UK Dance squad?  You will see five members, not including a twin sister who had “retired” from the dancing team recently.

The twins performing for the 2017-18 UK Dance Team are, left to right, Hannah Long, Sadie Long, Natalie Swarts, Lanie Dawson and Lexie Dawson. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

The twins are seniors Lanie and Lexie Dawson, and sophomores Hanna and Sadie Long.  The fifth one is senior Natalie Swarts, whose twin sister, Stephanie, once performed for the dance team for two years and still attends UK.  

The Dawson twins are from Louisville and are now in their fourth year with the dance team.  Lexie has a double major in marketing and finance, while Lanie is majoring in nursing.

“I’m from Louisville, but don’t be fooled you’ll find nary a Cardinals fan in the Dawson family,” said Lexie, whose favorite memory was going to the SEC men’s basketball tournament in Nashville. “The energy at tournament games is unlike anything else. Everyone in the arena is there for the Cats and the excitement is palpable!”

On her busy schedule, Lanie Dawson said, “It’s definitely hard balancing school and dance but I wouldn’t trade a second of it. I have so many amazing memories from being on the field but my favorite was representing USA at the ICU (International Cheer Union) world competition this year.”

Their dad, Mont Dawson, by the way is an avid photographer, who sometimes can be seen on the field shooting photos.

The Long twins, who are from Monroe, Ohio, are in their second year on the dance squad.

A human health sciences sophomore, Sadie says her favorite memory was performing at Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena last year. “I was so excited and it was so much fun,” she added.

Like her sister, Hanna says her best memory was the 2016 Big Blue Madness when she was a freshman.

“The most fun part about being on dance team is all the amazing friends I’ve made,” said Hanna, a sophomore who also majors in human health sciences. “Dance team has been a blessing and I couldn’t imagine college without it.”

Natalie Swarts, a business marketing major from Flatwoods, is entering her fourth year on the dance team.

“The most fun part of dance team has probably been all the experiences I’ve been given, from attending the Pediatric Cancer Survivor picnic to going to Disney World to compete with my team,” she recalled. “It has all been a lot of fun.”

Anyhow, the twins and their teammates have done really well on the floor lately. 

The Kentucky dance team had its best overall performance in school history at the 2017 Universal Dance Association event in Orlando, Fla., last January.  In the event, Wildcat dancers finished second in the hip-hop competition and fourth in the Pom category. Both were the highest finishes in school history.

While the dancers haven’t won championships like UK cheerleaders’ 22 national titles, they are catching on and showing improvement.

Kentucky head dance team coach Dawn Duncan Walters, a former member of UK’s national championship cheerleading squad, is pleased with her squad’s remarkable improvement in recent years. 

Said Walters, “I was a member of the first two of many UK cheer national championships and we have a long way to catch up to their 20-plus national titles. (But) I do feel like we have stepped up our competitive nature over the years and I would be proud to start a winning tradition like our cheerleaders.”

Her favorite memory of the dance team?

“I would have to say one of my recent proud moments was representing our country as the U.S. National Team for Pom and Hip Hop at the 2017 International Cheer Union Championships,” she concluded.

As you can tell, things are really looking bright for the dance team at UK.

* * *

If you are an avid reader of sports books, you may enjoy the following volumes, including a couple of Kentucky connections:

Ali

–“Ali: A Life” by Jonathan Eig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30) is an unauthorized biography of legendary boxer from Louisville, Ky. Based on more than 500 interviews with nearly all of Muhammad Ali’s surviving associates along the author’s discovering of FBI records and newly-uncovered Ali interviews from the 1960s, the 623-page hardcover is sure to be a knockout. Eig is the same author who wrote best-selling “Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig.”

–“The Baron & The Bear” by David Kingsley Snell (University of Nebraska Press, $29.95) is a story about two coaches, UK’s Adolph Rupp and Texas Western’s Don Haskins, who met in the now-famous 1966 national championship game.  The 278-page hardcover is filled with interesting anecdotes.  Ex-Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, who took over Rupp’s job in 1972, even wrote a blurb for the book, “The Baron and the Bear answers the question, ‘What was Adolph Rupp really like?’ It captures Rupp and Rupp’s Runts as never before. It also demolishes the contention that Rupp was a racist. It’s about time.”

–“Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era That Transformed a Southern College Town” by Art Chansky (University of North Carolina Press, $26) is a remarkable story about how then-North Carolina hoops coach and the school’s first African American scholarship athlete helped transform the university, the Chapel Hill area, and the racial landscape of sports in the South during the 1960s.  Chansky, a veteran sportswriter, interviewed many insiders and discussed the issues beyond basketball to highlight the community that supported Smith and Scott during these difficult years.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or at KySportsStyle@gmail.com

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