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The Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougar Dance Team opens their routine during the preliminary round of the Class 1A Jazz Division championship meet Friday at Target Center. The Cougars’s day ended early as they were unable to get into the top six. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

Dance Team: Cougars stunned at state

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MINNEAPOLIS – Last year, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougar Dance Team walked off the Target Center court surprised after getting into the Class 1A Jazz finals. After the hugs and the celebratory cheers, the Cougars went on to a surprise third-place finish.

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Z-M walked off the court surprised again Friday. But the mood was much more somber as the Cougars were left out of the final six, ending their day much earlier than anticipated.

“It’s very tough. Heartbreaking,” said Z-M head coach Jen Stumm. “It was top six and clearly, we didn’t make that. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Yellow Medicine East and Duluth-Marshall tied for first place, with YME winning the 1A Jazz title by tiebreaker. Aitkin took third.

Being the final team to compete in the Class 1A prelims, Stumm said she didn’t see her team fretting over going on last. 

“We were really focused going into it. I don’t know that (going on last) affected them,” Stumm said. “They were driven, focused and ready to go.”

Performing to Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody,” the Cougars came off the court confident that they would be back later that night to compete for a state title. 

Then the names came over the PA: Aitken, Duluth-Marshall, Frazee, Yellow Medicine East and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. As Rockford was announced as the final contestant, the hugs from the Z-M girls went from celebratory to consoling. Even after the teams went back into the Target Center tunnel, the Cougar coaches were still stunned over the outcome. 

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Z-M, especially with seven seniors in Abby Hinchley, Amber Klankowski, Anna Budensiek, Lindsey Renken, Lisa Ecker and Michelle Nygaard. But after a first-place finish in the Section 1A meet last week and another state berth, there isn’t much to keep the Cougars down for too long.

“It will take a little while to get over the sting,” Stumm said, “but eventually, hopefully they’ll be able to appreciate all that they have accomplished. There are so many teams that don’t get that opportunity.

“It sucks right now, but we’re one of the 12 best teams in state.”

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Joe Brown
Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
(651) 301-7878
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