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Dance Team: Warriors ready for 'most wonderful time of year'

Brainerd Warriors head coach Cindy Clough says "it's the most wonderful time of the year" for her squad, which will compete in the Class 3A state tournament Friday and Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Brainerd Warriors Lauren Crenna (front left) and Afton Arnold and Olivia Ruhl (back left), Michaela Steichen, Harlie Spieker and Maycie Berg perform at the state kick off show.
Brainerd Warriors Lauren Crenna (front left) and Afton Arnold and Olivia Ruhl (back left), Michaela Steichen, Harlie Spieker and Maycie Berg perform at the state kick off show.

Brainerd Warriors head coach Cindy Clough says "it's the most wonderful time of the year" for her squad, which will compete in the Class 3A state tournament Friday and Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Warriors qualified for state after finishing second in kick and jazz in the Section 4-3A meet at Forest Lake Feb. 3. Brainerd will perform 10th out of 12 schools in jazz, seventh out of 12 in kick.

Clough said the section tournament is more of a pressure cooker while state is more exciting. She said the pressure is still on at state, but not to the same degree as sections.

"This week, the team has been fine tuning and cleaning their dances as much as possible," Clough said. "The athletes watch a lot of film. They need to see where they are perhaps a millisecond late or early, where they are slightly off with placement or spacing.

"If football is a game of inches, dance team is a game of points. We talk about that a lot. At this point in the season, we look at how can we get another point for this or that?"

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At sections, the Warriors' kick scores averaged 77.2 per judge.

"We need to get into the 80s or mid 80s to make finals," Clough said. "We realize that and are trying everything we can. We have shifted some members around and are making adjustments.

"In kick, they are pretty set on their choreography so we are focusing on timing, technique, control of move, and stamina."

In jazz, the Warriors had an average section score of 75.6. Clough said the goal will be the same in jazz as kick-to score in the 80s.

"We added a new harder turn set and are really working on cleaning it up," she said. "Our strength is our emotion and that is easier to project at sections with judges closer up than at Target Center so we will need to bring it at state."

In looking at section scores, Brainerd ranks eighth in both events in terms of where points landed.

"A lot can change and our team certainly performs well under pressure," Clough said. "They have been up for the challenge of trying any last-ditch thing that we can to edge out a few schools."

Brainerd is dancing a team with a ninth-grade average grade level this year. Clough said it's the youngest team the Warriors have ever fielded with only four seniors. Following last year, Brainerd graduated 12 seniors and one junior moved to a metro art school for her senior year.

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"With 13 of our 24 starting lineup gone at one time, we had to look younger," Clough said. "To get this far with such a young group is amazing. We often forget how young they are when we are pushing them. The future looks great, keeping so many around for years to come."

Clough's coaching staff includes Julie Davidge, Ali Clough Geraets, Christina Sanow, Terri Ebinger and Brianna Niemeyer.

"Our JV coaches came on board since their season is done," Clough said. "They film, watch from various angles and help add more eyes on the kids to help detect differences. They work with swings to keep them in shape and work hard in case anyone gets injured and we have to fill a spot. They also really hone in on details and the smallest of detail is pointed out.

"We have a valuable coaching staff and I appreciate their dedication daily."

MacKenzie Grams is in her second year as the team's student manager.

"She runs the music daily and knows the song and routines backward and forward," Clough said. "If we say pick it up at the kickline, she knows the exact place in the music. It's an important part of our team. It saves us so much time and allows us to run sections faster, maximizing our time. We definitely notice it if she is ever gone, which is rare."

Aitkin defending champ

Aitkin is the defending Class 1A state champion in kick and jazz. In the Section 4-1A meet, Aitkin finished second in both events.

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Aitkin is seeking its fifth consecutive state championship in kick and its second-straight state title in jazz.

State schedule:

Jazz competition, Friday, Feb. 16

High kick competition, Saturday, Feb. 17

Friday and Saturday schedule:

Class 1A Qualifying Competition: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Class 1A Finalists Announced: 1:15 p.m.
Class 2A and 3A Qualifying Competition: 2-4:15 p.m.
Class 2A Finalists Announced: 4:15 p.m.
Class 3A Finalists Announced: 4:30 p.m.
Class 1A Finals and Awards: 5:30 p.m.
Class 2A and 3A Finals and Awards: 7:15 p.m.

Webcast: All qualifying rounds and finals will be webcast live on www.Prep45.com for a charge of $10.95 per day. A two-day pass is available for $18.97.
Tickets: $14 adults, $9 students. Buy online to skip the line.
Ticket Box Offices open: 10 a.m. both days.
Finalists and Final Results: Posted at www.mshsl.org
Social media: Follow on the MSHSL Facebook page and on Twitter at @MSHSL and @MSHSLJohn.

Related Topics: BRAINERD WARRIORSAITKIN
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