Another monumental season for the Spring Lake Park dance team wrapped up at the state dance tournament from Feb. 17-18 at the Target Center. It was the 13th straight state appearance for the team to cap off a Section 3AAA championship season in both jazz and high kick. The last time SLP won double championships was in 2012.
“Sections was really the high point of our season, winning double section championships,” head coach Tia Bont said. “This was just kind of the cherry on top. We spent so much time at state bonding and making it a great experience for the girls.”
The Pantherettes went into state in 10th place in both jazz and high kick and held that standing with two 10th-place finishes. Their performances featured season-high scores.
SLP kept its long run of success going with a relatively young team. The roster is made up of two seniors, two juniors, a large sophomore class and a handful of rookies as young as seventh-graders who performed on the state dance floor for the first time.
The state stage can be overwhelming compared to regular season gyms, with brighter lights and a bigger crowd and surrounding on hand.
“We tried to do a ton of visualization and a ton of mental preparation for what it’ll be like and what it’ll feel like,” Bont said. “Otherwise I think that kids for the first time will come out with a deer-in-the-headlights look. So we really tried to prepare on the front end. Our three seventh-graders are so young and they did amazing. I think it’s one of those surreal moments performing on the state floor. It’s unlike anything else they do throughout the season.”
While excelling in competition, the Pantherettes go beyond the intricacies and technical aspects of dance. Bont said it’s the team’s mission to teach the dancers lessons on and off the dance floor. It’s that mindset, she said, that separates SLP from other teams.
“I think that we really strive to have a championship culture,” Bont said. “We spend a lot of time in practice teaching our girls about sportsmanship, advocacy, responsibility, all those types of things. I think I see that play out with amazing leadership on our team as well as our external drive that pushes them to be great ambassadors. What really sets us apart is that attention to more than just the X’s and O’s. It really comes to fruition with the success on the dance floor.”