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State Dance Team: Bombers ready for new challenge

For a decade, Cannon Falls had been the cream of the crop in Class 1A High Kick. Since 2004, the Bombers has won six Class 1A High Kick titles (2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005) and taken runner-up honors four times in that stretch (2012, 2010, 2008, 2004).

But this year, Cannon Falls made the leap to Class 2A. 

“We got bumped into 2A by one student and we’re the smallest school in 2A,” said Cannon Falls head coach Madi Salisbury.

And so far, the Bombers don’t look like they have slowed down, winning the Section 1AA High Kick title Saturday over Academy of Holy Angels and Austin. 

Early in the season, Cannon Falls competed against state-caliber teams Sartell and Totino-Grace, and after showing some success against state powers in 2A, things were looking promising for the team.

“We ended up taking a close second in a meet with those schools and I was pretty awe-struck,” Salisbury said. “Not that I didn’t think that our girls weren’t talented or couldn’t do it, but I sat in the stands and watched Sartell and Totino, and I’m so hard on our kids that I thought, ‘Whoa, we were that good.’ 

“When we got second place, I think the Bombers realized that we had a chance to do more and potentially get a medal at state.”

One would think a team as successful as Cannon Falls would be coming into the season with plenty of confidence. But Salisbury admitted that it took until the section final for the girls to come into a meet knowing they could win.

“We were like, ‘Stop focusing on the event of not making it and come into Austin like you already won,’” Salisbury said. “We told them that last year at state. We told them, ‘Forget about what happened and walk in like you’re already champions and you will be.’ 

“Confidence is everything, and they were confident on Saturday. It was the first time they walked into a competition confident and ready to win.”

Heading to Target Center on Saturday, the Bombers are slated to perform at 2:30 p.m. Having that confidence helps, but Cannon Falls knows their performance will have to be top-notch to leave its mark against the bigger schools.

“Our routine on paper is more visually sound, more creatively sound. We’ve been beating out all the other teams as far as that goes, and they’ve been beating us in other categories,” Salisbury said. “You have to compete the best, not just have the best dance.”

Cougars prep for another top three finish

The Zumbrota-Mazeppa dance team was elated last season to finish third in the Jazz Division of the Class 1A state championship. Now the Cougars are set on proving that they belong with the top teams in the state. 

“It’s now like, OK, we got third and now they’re hungrier than they’ve ever been and pushing themselves to do more,” Z-M head coach Jen Stumm said. “They’re watching film and figuring out what those top teams have at state and trying to build upon that in terms of difficult elements, turn sequences and technique, those kinds of things.”

Winning the Section 1A title for the second straight year, the Cougars’ Jazz team takes to the Target Center floor at 12:47 p.m. Friday. It will be a familiar field for Z-M, with all six teams from last year’s Jazz final – Yellow Medicine East, Aitkin, Duluth-Marshall, Frazee and Renville County West – returning to the state floor.

As the Cougars try and move up the standings, Stumm said after Monday’s practice that the team was keeping an eye on each other to tighten up their performance.

“They were very positively critiquing each other,” Stumm said. “Not in terms of being hurtful to other dancers, but in terms of trying to unify everybody and making sure everything looks exactly the same, right now to finger placement and those kinds of little things.”

Stumm added, “They’ve heard it from me a million times, so to hear it from someone else always helps. With each girl watching one individual girl, they can catch so many things that I can’t when I’m watching the entire team, or even a small group of girls. More eyes equal more corrections, and that definitely helps.”

Tigers adjust, then get back to state

With new head coach Wendy White, there was a bit of a learning curve for the Lake City dance team.

“We had to have a lot of team bonding,” White said. “We had to let people get things out, having girls say, ‘I prefer if you tell us this during practice.’ … We kind of met each other halfway and realized everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. … From the beginning of the season, we got familiar with each other, it was a matter of getting to know each other that much more.”

The Tigers hunkered down and, for the second straight year, won the Class 1A High Kick Division title on Saturday.

“When it came time to hear the awards, to me it wasn’t a surprise with how well we’ve been doing this season,” White said, “but it was pretty nerve-wracking during the end, hearing what other teams were making it to state and hearing the numbers narrow it down, wondering if it was us or another team.”

After getting through the section field, the Tigers will try to get back into the 1A High Kick title hunt with Aitkin, YME and Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd back from last year’s top six.

Not only have the Tigers dealt with a new coach this year, they are dealing with a different core of performers.

“There are five girls that have never performed at state before,” White said. “They need to mentally prepare, with the ones who have been there before, to get back into that mood and realize this is the last week of dance.”

And right now, that is nitpicking the team’s routine to make sure Lake City puts on its best performance when they hit the floor at approximately 11:54 a.m. Saturday.

“We worked on very small, miniscule stuff that’s going to make that much of a difference when we do our performance,” White said of Monday’s practice. “Nothing too strenuous, we don’t want them overworked. We want the best strength and endurance on Saturday.”

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.

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