The University of St. Thomas Dance Team finished in first place in the Open Jazz Division and the Open Hip Hop Division at the Universal Dance Association College Nationals in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 18 and 19, earning its seventh and eighth national championships since 2006 and its third consecutive win in the jazz category.

The UDA competition is the largest national collegiate championship in the United States and is attended annually by teams from around the nation and Puerto Rico. The Open Division includes Division II and III, and smaller schools. Schools are limited to competition in two categories. Prior to this year, the Tommies placed first in jazz in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013; and in hip hop in 2011.

In her 10th year with the team, head coach Alysia Ulfers said it is uncommon for teams to win in both categories. “Jazz and hip hop are so different. To be equally successful in both requires dancers to be extremely versatile and have two completely opposite skill sets,” she said, noting that only one other team had ever won in both categories, Orange Coast College in 2007.

The Tommies’ success is particularly remarkable considering the team suffered a setback hours before performing in the final round of competition. According to Ulfers, one of the dancers was injured during hip hop semifinals and an alternate was needed in both routines. “It’s not as simple as just plugging in a new team member. It meant adjusting all of the formations, partner work and lifts they had been perfecting for months,” she said.

Overcoming the setback to win in both categories was a testament to the poise and maturity of the dancers, Ulfers said. “They never hesitated and everyone stayed focused and determined not to let this break us. The fact that we could send the team out to finals confident and just as determined, have them perform as if it never happened, and be rewarded with a win is proof of how prepared, trained and close this year’s team really is.”

Watch the Tommies’ jazz routine:

Jazz Results
  1. University of St. Thomas
  2. Minnesota State University Mankato
  3. Lindenwood University (Mo.)
  4. Orange Coast College (Calif.)
  5. College of Saint Benedict
  6. Northwest Missouri State University
  7. St. Cloud State University
  8. University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
  9. University of Puerto Rico – Bayamon
  10. Bridgewater State University (Va.)
  11. Riverside City College (Calif.)

Watch the Tommies’ hip hop routine:

Hip Hop Results
  1. University of St Thomas
  2. University of Puerto Rico – Bayamon
  3. Lindenwood University
  4. Northwest Missouri State University
  5. University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
  6. College of New Jersey
  7. Westfield State University (Mass.)
  8. Avila University
  9. Robert Morris University (Pa.)

The team began its season on a high note in August when it won first place in the Open Division Home Routine competition at  UDA College Camp at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

Watch the Tommies’ first-place camp routine:

The UST Dance Team was featured in the Spring 2013 edition of St. Thomas magazine.

Team members include seniors Sam Grover, Bethany Laiti (captain), Julia Randall (captain) and Ellie Wood, juniors Jessica Danner, Annie Lindberg (captain) and Whitney Nelson, sophomores Sydney Borchert, Alex Brown, Hanna Brown, Eve Byron, Morgan McGowan, Kelly Olson, Jackie Schneider, Chloe Setter and Ari Vasquez, and freshmen Sydni Grover, Megan Kaveney and Mikayla Larson.

Assistant coaches are Pam Gleason ’09 and Lauryn Perdew ’12.