The team of 14 women, head choreographer Kallista Nilson, and head coach Kari Okonek flew down for their biggest competition of the year. To say the team was ready for the competition would be putting it mildly.
“This is the competition that we work for all year,” Okonek said. “So when the time comes for the team to perform, excitement and nerves play a huge role.”
Try-outs, six-hour-per-day practices and a yearlong season helped to prepare for nationals this year. The hard work was not overlooked.
“This year was probably the best group of girls that I’ve danced with,” said senior captain Alexis Hoffman. “It was really just a lot of fun to dance … and walk off the floor knowing we left our hearts out there.”
The team performed dances in the jazz category and pom category in the “open” division. The team missed finals in pom by less than one point, placing seventh out of 11 and 17 out of 24 in jazz, which is the best MSUM has done in the last five years.
“Our team walked off the floor with no regrets,” Hoffman said. “We performed the best that I’ve ever felt about a nationals performance in all four years.”
On Friday the girls spent the day practicing their routines to Nicki Minaj and David Guetta outside in the parking lot of their resort. On Saturday morning before competing, the team focused on staying calm.
“The girls on the team work extremely well together so it was important that as they were waiting to dance they were together,” said Okonek, who is in her second year of coaching the team. “We wanted the entire team to work together to be in that same place and to make sure and stay calm.”
The rest of the trip became a team bonding experience. On Sunday the team was able to explore Hollywood Studios together because it was exclusively open to only the dancers. The familial type of relationships between the girls have been a staple in the team’s synchronicity this year.
“I would say this is the best group of girls I have worked with. The girls got along so well that it really showed in their dancing,” Okonek said. “This group was truly family this year.”
Hoffman is the lone senior on the team this season.
“Alexis has been an incredible leader and really kept the team together,” Okonek said. “She has motivated the girls throughout the entire year to push themselves.”
Hoffman and the Dragons are done with competitions for the year, however their next performance on campus is at the MSUM basketball game on Feb. 8.
BY MADALYN LASKE
PHOTO BY BREANN LENZMEIER