The Tommie Dance Team competed at the 2012 Universal Dance Association (UDA) College Dance Team Championships last weekend and came home with another win in the jazz category and runner-up honors in the hip-hop category. This year marks the team’s fifth national title in eight years, having also won in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

This year’s team is extremely close, and that had a direct effect on how smooth and productive the practices were leading up to the competition. We not only have strong leadership in our captains, but every team member had the same drive to do what it takes to make a strong showing at nationals. It was that, and that belief in each other, that kept the team bonded and goal oriented. In my eight years coaching at UST, I feel as though this year we were the most prepared we have ever been heading into nationals.

Knowing that their competitors also would come with strong routines, the Tommies instead shifted focus off other teams and onto themselves. It is a given that the competition gets better year after year – but we do, too, so we saw no reason to dwell on what others would be bringing. The Tommies made it a goal to continue to “never settle” and beat themselves, and to make improvements each time they performed the routines. Using each other for constructive criticism and reviewing videos of practices helped them perfect and match their moves as a team.

Teams from around the nation qualify to compete at the national championships. This year the field was set at 32 teams in the “open division,” which includes Division II and III, and junior and community colleges.

The competition

After the semifinal round of competition on Saturday, St. Thomas entered the finals ranked first for jazz and in third place for hip-hop. Having always finished in the top two in both categories, it was a confidence boost to have earned the top spot in jazz but there was a bit of pressure on us to be sitting in third place going into the hip-hop finals. Although the team did feel good about its semifinal performance, it was an unspoken fact that they all needed to dig deep and push in the finals if they were to move up in the final rankings. The coaches reviewed small execution details with the team that could be stronger, but overall the team’s performance and energy is what needed to step up if the team wanted to crack the top two.

Jazz dancers

Pictured here in the jazz seminfnals, the Tommies went on to win the jazz national championship in the finals.

The Tommies took the finals stage for hip-hop feeling refreshed, confident and ready as ever to compete. The team did everything we talked about, and then some. All I ever hope for them is that they come off the floor knowing they did everything they could and to feel good about it. There are no words to describe the feeling we had after they performed in finals. It was so gratifying that we could have skipped awards entirely because how we placed didn’t matter – it was the team that mattered. And to us, they outdid themselves. Placing second in hip-hop was amazing, but to have come off with a performance of a lifetime and receive compliments from other teams and spectators who thought we were going to win is more than we could ever ask for.

Jazz finals were Sunday, so the team carried the momentum from its hip-hop experience and took the competition head-on. The dancers did not know they were ranked first after the semifinals – only the coaches knew. Some may call our strategy of not telling the girls where they are ranked before finals crazy … but I know that other coaches do the same. It really is a matter of what’s best for the athletes. We knew this year’s team would be motivated more by knowing they were in the top two rather than feeling the pressure to “keep” the top spot. When there is something to work toward, rather than something to maintain, they want it more.

Once again, the Tommies had their strongest jazz performance of the season. They hit it best when it counted. We knew it and the girls knew it. They had done everything they knew how to do and left it on the floor. The win? It was just the icing on the cake!

The team’s performaces can be viewed on the College Nationals’ website: jazz finals and hip-hop finals.

Results

Jazz:
1. University of St. Thomas
2. Lindenwood (Mo.)
3. Orange Coast College (Calif.)
4. University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon
5. UW-Eau Claire (Wis.)
6. College of St. Benedict (Minn.)
9. St. Cloud State University (Minn.)

Hip-hop:
1. Lindenwood (Mo.)
2. University of St. Thomas
3. University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon
4. Avila University (Mo.)
8. UW-Eau Claire 

The Tommie Dance Team includes senior Lauryn Perdew (captain); juniors Samantha Maroney (captain), Kristen Olson (captain) and Ellie Wood; sophomores Jillian Bagley, Samantha Grover, Bethany Laiti, Danielle Pfeiffer, Julia Randall, Brittney Schubert and Maddie Wehking, and freshmen Jessica Danner, Brynja Hill, Elise Kissell and Annie Lindberg.

The team is coached by Alysia Ulfers and Pamela Gleason.

Hip-hop finals

The Tommmies strut their stuff in the finals of the hip-hop competition.