They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Not this time.

Six DMPS/RunDSM poets are back in town, fresh from the 22nd annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival at UNLV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas), where they punched their way into the semifinals and a finish among the top eight out of more than 60 teams that competed from all across the country.

Three-time team member, former DMPS Grand Slam Champion and East grad Jalesha Johnson coached the team along with another BNV (and North High) alum Leah Waughtal, who joined the district faculty last year.

Waughtal helped coach the 2015 team that competed in Atlanta and also reached the semifinals.

“This (2019) team was a crew of rookies,” said “Coach” Waughtal, “six newbie poets who had never competed at the Brave New Voices level before. This was the first time in the history of RunDSM for that to happen. To see them battle it out like this and earn a top ranking was a joy. They held a special kind of fierceness and tenacity and it was an honor to coach them.”

During twelve weeks of preparation since the team was determined at the RunDSM slam last spring, the “rookies” obviously drew upon the ample experience of their coaches.

In the team’s first bout, DMPS prevailed against Manchester, Connecticut; Twin Cities, Minnesota; and Columbus, Missouri.

In the next round, it bested Tampa, Portland, and Indianapolis.

Team DMPS finished second in a semifinal bout with Sacramento, New York City, the Bay Area (CA) and St. Louis, narrowly missing a berth in the Grand Slam Finals where Seattle, Newark, Chicago and St. Louis comprised the Final Four.

There’s no way what you did in Vegas stays there. Congratulations to Jazzy Johnson (East High, Class of ’19), LaNeeta Burgs (Hoover, Class of ’19), Jocelyn Rifas-Arreola (North, Class of ’19), Andrea Perez (East, senior), Bri DeLaFuente (Lincoln, senior) and Kaleb Nichols (Hoover, junior).

Add yours to performances by your predecessors in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Washington, DC. It’s a question of when, not if anymore, right, the team from Des Moines goes all the way to the BNV finals.

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