One of the best reasons to watch tonight's final episode of season 10 of "Dancing with the Stars" is that eight members of Purdue's Latin & Ballroom Dance Team will be competing for the collegiate championship. They'll be facing off against Utah Valley University for the trophy.
While viewer votes helped propel Purdue to the championship round, tonight it's all up to judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, who will determine the winners.
"We've been training anywhere from 4 to 12 hours a day to prepare for this [cha cha]," said Purdue team member Sean Lyons, a freshman who hails from suburban Naperville.
Lyons, a freshman at the West Lafayette campus, who is majoring in management and finance, said he has had a great time meeting several of the pros and the celebrities, especially fellow Naperville native Evan Lysacek. "He is so nice."
Another Chicago-area team member is Tracy Matz, who hails from Des Plaines.
"I've been ballroom dancing for three years, but have studied other dance since I was 5" Matz said. "It's so exciting to be on national TV in front of millions of people. It's crazy!"
Like Lyons, Matz, a junior who is majoring in visual communication and design, has met her share of the show's celebs and pros, including Lysacek, Anna Trebunskya, Niecy Nash and all the judges.
Prior to their initial turn on "Dancing with the Stars," the Purdue team had never competed in "formation" dancing, which is what they are judged on for this particular competition.
"Formation dancing is really more of a West Coast thing," Lyons said. "We're all about partners and pairs, and letting each couple's personalities come through. So it has been a great learning process for us."
As for that formidable dance floor, looks can be very deceiving.
"The ballroom is way smaller than it looks on TV," Lyons said. "Just look when there are 8 people out on that floor at the same time. They take up the entire space."
The rest of the Purdue team members that will appear on "Dancing with the Stars" include:
--Josef Conner, a senior majoring in biological sciences from Galveston, Ind.
--Tiffany Lam, a senior majoring in dietetics from Hong Kong and West Lafayette,
--Kris Ezra, a senior majoring in aeronautics and astronautics from Winamac,
--Yitian Chen, a senior majoring in pharmaceutical sciences from Xi'an, China,
and Moon Township, Pa.
--Lincoln Slentz, a senior majoring in chemistry from Auburn, Ind.
--Dessi Moneva, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry from Greenwood, Ind.
The team competes in intercollegiate competitions throughout the year and
conducts classes, shows and social dances on or near campus.