The St. Olaf dance team started off this season strongly like it has every other year - without a coach. The team's thirteen girls, along with the first ever boy on the team, have been hard at work perfecting their jazz and pom routines for their big competitions of the season.
This year, the captains decided they wanted to push themselves and compete in three different competitions rather than their usual one. They wanted to create a more collegiate atmosphere in the dance team and continue to stand out as a successful sport at St. Olaf. They competed at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire Competition and received 1st place in pom and 4th in jazz. At the WowFactor Timberwolves Competition, they placed 1st in pom and 1st in jazz. Finally, at the St. Thomas Invitational, the team placed 1st in pom and 4th in jazz.
This year's auditions for the team were tougher, the team practiced more often and more team bonding activities were enforced - all of which contributed to the overall success of the team's season. The emphasis placed on getting closer as a team allowed for a more cohesive atmosphere and provided opportunities for the teammates to get to know each other on a very close level.
"This year, the team has been really close, and we definitely have more of a family vibe, which allows us to push each other harder and get the best out of each other," Hannah Erie '15 said. "But we have also emphasized taking talent from our non-captains, which has allowed us to incorporate each person's unique style, which has brought a really cool aspect to our routines."
This year's captains - Courtney Kein '16, Aylin Awbrey '15 and Megan Sather '16 - were determined to make this their best year yet. Without a coach, it was up to them to motivate, organize and guide the team members, which sometimes proved difficult.
"We do have to take over some of the responsibilities of a coach, like being authoritative and doing the administrative things a coach would do, which can be a unique challenge," Kein said. "But it also has given us an advantage in that we are invested in every aspect of our team, and in order for our team to run, every member has to have respect for each other or the whole dynamic doesn't work."
The success of this year's season has already pushed the captains into thinking about goals for the team next year. They hope to continue ranking highly in competition, keeping their practice time up and continuing to be a tight-knit group.
Seniors such as Erie are sad to leave. Erie said she knows that during the four years she has spent on the dance team, she has made close friendships and had a creative outlet in her life doing something that she loved. Some of the freshmen on the team, having only been on the team for one season, can already see the impact that the dance team has had on their lives.
"I have made some of the best friendships on the team this year, and the girls are extremely supportive while also making you work hard and grow as a dancer," Becca Braun '18 said. "I'm really proud to be a part of the team this year, and I know this only sets the bar for improvement for next year."
Graphic Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER