Warriors Athlete of Week: Hiltner’s high skills a boost to Warriors dance team

Semme Hiltner helped the Brainerd dance team to second place in the Central Lakes Conference championship.

Brainerd Warrior Dance Team members practicing.
Brainerd Warriors Maddy Avery, left, and Semme Hiltner practice a dance routine Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, at the Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — When Cindy Clough says something about dance, people listen and so when she describes Semme Hiltner as not a some-of-the-time kind of athlete she knows what she’s talking about.

She described the senior captain of the Brainerd Warriors dance team as someone who takes things seriously and gives 100% all of the time. It’s that work ethic and leadership that has Brainerd eager to show off their skills for the Section 4-3A Competition Feb. 4 at St. Michael-Albertville.

“She caught our eye when she was quite young and she had a lot of natural ability,” Clough said. “She has a really strong work ethic that really rounds it out. Her hard work and example is probably the best thing she brings to the team.

“She’s not a loud motivational leader. She’s more of a quiet leader. She has high standards and she expects that of her teammates. She sets that tone.”

Hiltner and the Brainerd dance team finished second in both jazz and kick at the Jan. 13 Central Lakes Conference Championships at Sauk Rapids. Hiltner earned all-conference honors for both disciplines.


I just want to be able to not regret anything going out of my senior year.
Semme Hiltner

“It is pretty meaningful to me,” Hiltner said. “It’s pretty hard to be in a sport where everybody needs to be exactly the same and everybody needs to perform at the same level. Having one person way better than the others doesn’t help your score by any means.

“But to be recognized outside of that is important.”

It was Hiltner’s third year earning all-conference honors as she has been a varsity veteran since she was in seventh grade.

One area where she distinguishes herself is at the beginning of the season as part of the choreography group. The small group picks the music, style and routine for the year.

“Semme did a lot of our choreography over the last several years,” Clough said. “She is very creative and that’s a natural gift that she has. She is also willing to put it the extra time that it requires.”

She draws inspiration from watching dance videos and she was very interested in the Universal Dance Association’s College Nationals Jan. 13-15. She also likes to listen to music over and over until she gets a picture of how the music should look.

“I kind of have always just been talented in that area,” Hiltner said. “I don’t want to sound boastful or anything, but me and a few others have just been doing that for a while. Being creative is my thing. I like to do dance, obviously, and art and other things so it’s just kind of fun for me.”

Another Hiltner strength is versatility. She started dancing as soon as she could walk. During elementary and early middle school she saw the varsity athletes and was inspired to make dance her sport. She dove in by working on different genres of dance.


She can do lyrical, contemporary, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, kick and she used to do tap. Her favorite is lyrical.

“The hard thing is we try to get all 24 kids to be the same so that gets hard and so we try to pick a style and emulate that depending on the dance you’re doing,” Clough said. “Semme is representative of a lot of our kids. It’s hard for dance teams to have an athlete of the week because we’re all in this together and we need to be a cohesive team, but Semme represents somebody who can do all styles depending on what we’re doing that particular year.”

Along with that versatility, another Hiltner strength is her strength.

“She’s gotten stronger,” Clough said. “She’s such a strong athlete and one of her qualities is her turn technique. She is a really great turner. She won the turn competition two years in a row at camp. That's a huge accomplishment. In the last two years, she has beaten out kids from Eastview and Wayzata. Turning is one of her many strengths.

“She’s very consistent. “She’s not a some-of-the-time kind of athlete. She’s hitting it hard all of the time.”Hiltner said turns are something she’s naturally good at so she really enjoys showing off her skills. Clough said in order to win last year’s turn competition, Hiltner tipped off her axis or center to the side. She then straightened up and continued to turn perfectly stable.

“It was pretty breathtaking,” Clough said.

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Hiltner is excited about the postseason. She understands dance is a subjective sport and a team’s success is based on a judge’s point of view. She’s also confident that Brainerd has a good chance to advance to state in both jazz and kick.

She’s not ready to give her team a state placement as the postseason is still a few weeks away, but there are a few things she can control.


“I just want to be able to not regret anything going out of my senior year,” Hiltner said. “That’s pushing as hard as I can at every practice. With the team, getting as far as we can. Personal success is important because we’re not going to win every single meet, but if we have those team success like our team did the best that we can do that’s really important to me.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Semme Hiltner

Semme Hiltner
Semme Hiltner

Sport: Dance team

Year: Senior

Age: 17

Height: 5-foot-6

Career highlight: Placing third in the Class 3A kick competition in 2021.

Grade-point average: 3.9

Favorite class: Cardio sampler

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: “Harry Potter” series

Favorite TV show: “The Vampire Diaries”

Favorite restaurant: Rafferty’s Pizza

Future plans: Attend Grand Canyon University, major in graphic design and advertising, and possibly dance

Parents: Nate and Ally Hiltner

Other notable performances

Other notable performances

Easton Dircks, wrestling, registered his 100th career win with a tech fall against Moorehead.

Cayden Sumption, boys’ swimming and diving, won both individual events and helped two relays to first against St. Cloud Tech.

Mason Kuepers, boys’ swimming and diving, won both individual events and helped two relays to first against St. Cloud Tech.

Cadence Atwater, adapted floor hockey, finished with four goals against Maple Grove.

Aiden Olsen, adapted floor hockey, finished with three goals and two assists against Maple Grove.

John Pecarich, boys’ basketball, finished with 26 points against St. Cloud Tech.

Eli Hoelz, boys’ basketball, finished with 21 points against St. Cloud Tech.

Nick Evanson, boys’ basketball, finished with 23 points against St. Cloud Tech.

Eli Knapp, boys’ Nordic skiing, finished second at the Bemidji Invite with a 26:59.42.

Ellie Brown, girls’ Nordic skiing, finished second at the Bemidji Invite with a 33:17.24.

Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished 2-0 at the Buffalo Triangular and reached 150 career wins.

Isaiah Germann, wrestling, finished 1-0 at the Buffalo Triangular and secured his 100th career win.

Macy Peterson, girls’ hockey, finished with two goals in a 3-0 win over St Cloud.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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