Bringing home a national championship title is an accomplishment that not every college athlete achieves. However, for the St. Thomas dance team, the feeling is one that has been experienced before– five times to be exact.
The team traveled to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. Jan. 18-20, hoping to bring home yet another championship title. St. Thomas finished first in the open jazz category in front of the College of St. Benedict, who took home second. The win marked the team’s first consecutive jazz title from last season to this season.
The dance team poses with their national first place trophy for the Universal Dance Association's open jazz category. The win marked the team's first consecutive title in the open jazz category from last season to this season. (Photo courtesy of the St. Thomas dance team)
The Tommies placed second in the open hip-hop category. The team has been ranked at the national level since 2004, and it received its first national title in 2006.
For senior captain Kristen Olson, the win was a great way to end her career at St. Thomas.
“It was the perfect way to end an incredible season, and it feels good to know that all of our hard work has paid off,” Olson said. “Winning was just definitely the icing on the cake.”
The jazz title win was the fourth consecutive for Olson and teammate senior captain Samantha Maroney.
“It was kind of just the cherry on top, to end (my) dance career that way,” Maroney said. “For us (captains) it was kinda a sense of accomplishment leading the team to not only a great season but to really lead us to success with the first place.”
Maroney and Olson, joined by senior captain Ellie Wood, led the team as captains with a new set of teammates. With eight freshmen and a two rookies added to the lineup, the eight returning veterans welcomed the addition with open arms.
Sophomore dancer Jessica Danner said that the new members added an extra flare to the team’s chemistry.
“Having more new people than old led us to having a great connection as a team,” Danner said. “They were always so interested in how things worked, and we could just tell them our stories from before.”
Coach Alysia Ulfers, who has coached the Tommies since 2004, said that the team’s motivation and cohesion is what pushed them to successes this season.
“In my nine years of coaching, I have never had a team work so well together,” Ulfers said. “The constructive criticism and self-accountability contributed to constant improvement.”
Olson said the win couldn’t have happened had it not been for the strength of the program and staff.
“It shows that we have a great program with talented team members and coaches,” Olson said. “We owe so much of our successes to our coaches who give us a lot of their time, energy and support.”
Not only does the team display emotion through its performances, but a drive and momentum as well.
Danner said that team’s fire and work ethic is what helped them take home the title.
“The team worked so hard to be where it is and getting the win just shows how great of a program we have,” Danner said. “(It) shows that our team is very close to one another and very hard working.”
Coach Ulfers feels that the strong returning members are what keep the program shooting for excellence.
“Our rookies are always extremely talented and enthusiastic, so that part comes relatively easy,” Ulfers said. “From there it is really the vets who set the example for the rest of the characteristics we want to establish quickly for every team member.”
With the three senior captains graduating, Maroney said she is more than confident in the team that will be filling the gaps and stepping up.
“Everyone has that touch of motivation, that touch of leadership,” Maroney said. “We’re so blessed.”
Ulfers said that although she is sad to see the seniors go, she is confident with next year’s team.
“We set our six national titles aside and set and accomplish new goals for a new year,” Ulfers said. “Every year is a new experience.”
Sean Crotty can be reached at email@example.com