By: Ben Felderstein | @Ben__Felderstein
It’s 5:15 in the morning when her alarm goes off, but she has already been up for hours. For Kiley Dombroski, the inability to sleep on the mornings before dance workouts is a typical routine.
Dombroski is a junior from Lakewood, Colo., and a member of the Rock Chalk Dancers.
“On the days that I have workouts, I’m usually waking up anxious every hour,” Dombroski said.
Dombroski is a journalism major with focus in strategic communications, and is minoring in creative writing. She has spent her last three years on the University’s dance team.
Dombroski juggles dance, school work and classes, and being a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
“I make it work,” Dombroski said. “You have to sacrifice sleep sometimes, but I’m the type of person that needs to be staying busy.”
Growing up in Colorado, most of Kiley’s high school friends attended local schools such as the University of Colorado. Dombroski wanted to get away from home and start a new chapter in her life.
Kiley came to visit Kansas during the final Kansas-Mizzou basketball game in 2012. Following the victory, Kiley and her father rushed to Massachusetts Street to see many students and Kansas fans celebrating in the street.
“My dad looked at me and said, ‘This is where you’re going’,” Dombroski said. “I fell in love with the campus, the tradition, everything.”
The dance team plays a large role in the University’s tradition, and they have a big presence at sports events happening throughout the year.
Dancing at basketball games will always be one of Kiley’s most cherished memories, from building relationships with the other dancers to getting to lead fans in the Rock Chalk chant on one of the most famous basketball courts in America.
“It’s the best, most unreal feeling, standing out on the court doing the Rock Chalk chant,” Dombroski said. “It gives me goose bumps every time. It’s something only a few people will experience in their lives.”
The Rock Chalk Dancers serve as ambassadors to the University, and have a lot of responsibility to keep up a strong public image. Kiley and her team run camps for children and make many public appearances.
With the hectic schedule of a dancer, things are often subject to change.
“We have a motto on the team,” Dombroski said. “It’s cope and adjust. We say ‘Okay, reset and go on with whatever you have to do’.”
Kiley and the rest of the Rock Chalk dancers have developed bonds that are as strong as familial ties. Dombroski attended a former dancer’s wedding this past summer with close to 30 other dancers.
Seeing seniors at the center of the court on their senior night is always an emotional experience. For Kiley, this year’s senior night meant that she is one year closer to her last game dancing at the Fieldhouse.
She got a call that night from her former teammate that had just gotten married saying how crazy it is that the next last game will be her last.
“They’re going to have to drag me off the court crying,” Dombroski said. “It’ll be hard to get me out of Allen [Fieldhouse].”
After Kiley’s senior night this next fall, she hopes to graduate the following May and start another chapter in her life in sports marketing. Dombroski hopes to stay around the University and live in Lawrence for a little while.
Kiley has loved every moment she has spent dancing for Kansas, but does not see that as a part of her life going forward after graduation.
“A lot of girls try out for the Chiefs or Broncos,” Dombroski said. “But I don’t really think that’s for me.”
With the semester winding down and the summer growing near, come next fall, it will be Kiley’s last year as a Rock Chalk Dancer.
It will be her last year waking up at 5:15 a.m. for workouts, and her last year making public appearances and posing for pictures with little kids; it will be her last year dancing on the sidelines of Memorial Stadium, and her final season leading 16,300 people in the Rock Chalk chant from the court of Allen Fieldhouse.
But it won’t be the last time she practices the traditions of being a Jayhawk and spends time with her teammates; it won’t be the last time she gets goose bumps inside Allen Fieldhouse, or has that familiar eerie chill running down her spine that everyone feels during the Rock Chalk chant.
“I’ve learned so much about life from being a Rock Chalk Dancer,” Dombroski said. “And to know that the way we do things is the same as we’ve always done it at a school that is so rich in tradition and basketball history is really special.”
–– Edited by Lane Cofas