The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived and it’s time to celebrate another amazing dance team season. This will be our first state tournament under the new scoresheet format, and I couldn’t be more “jazzed” to see it in action. Ok, bad puns aside – it is shaping up to be a tough year to pick our winners with how much teams have grown and made moves in the last 17 weeks. Be sure to check out our tournament page, spectators guide article, and tune in on Friday morning for our state tournament live commentary feed going all day.
Class A Jazz: This year each section sent 3 teams to the tournament, so the field is looking a bit different than the last 2 years. I see a broad section representation going to finals, with Zumbrota, Lac Qui Parle Valley, Frazee, Yellow Medicine East, Aitkin, and Duluth Marshall all on the top of the leaderboard right now. Lac Qui Parle is having a great year when you can “double blue” section 3A, so watch out for them to be in medals range this time. St. Charles and BOLD will be on the bubble list for finals this year and neither team is going to disappoint in performances. Hitting turns will be key as will momentum coming into Friday night.
Class AA Jazz: Its starting to shape up to be the usual routine of Benilde St. Margarets, Totino Grace, and Sartell in the top slots, so look for their names in finals more likely than not. What gets fun is the next top teams – Mound Westonka, Faribault, and South St. Paul have all made appearances lately but are hardly going to take that for granted. I haven’t seen SSP’s jazz this year on purpose because they are so entertaining each year at state I just wait and see. Faribault will be ultra clean and Mound delivers in technique. Wild cards are Simley and Rocori. I wouldn’t count out Rocori just for sheer effort to make a move each year – they always outperform sections. Simley on the other hand is a dynasty team with a strong tradition of excellence to carry them.
Class AAA Jazz: Just making AAA jazz finals is a huge accomplishment these days as there doesn’t seem to be enough medals for deserving teams to go around. The Eastview, Wayzata, Edina clash is keeping everyone guessing. When Eastview nails those turns they seem to be ever so slightly favored. Wayzata on the other hand is solid every single time no matter what and consistency is king when there are prelims and finals. Edina surely wants it badly enough, it just gets hard to find a breakthrough. Then there’s Maple Grove who had an amazing state finish last year and knows how to get it done. Meanwhile surging programs from Lakeville North, Prior Lake, and Anoka all want in on that. Lakeville North is one to watch and see how their entertaining and memorable dance can fit into this crowded field. Anoka and Prior Lake jazz teams haven’t seen each other this year so that’s a wide-open contest.
Class A Kick: Saturday we get underway with the class A kick division, which always brings us back to the traditions of Minnesota dance team. Class A kick is full of heart and grit that other divisions simply don’t match. The speculation here is going to be all about where Aitkin is going to end up after a transitional year to a new era for the program. I will be watching to see if teams like Frazee or Lac Qui Parle can finally crack that golden prize. Neither has a kick championship. Cannon Falls and Yellow Medicine East will be in the hunt with some real power behind their programs and their kicks. I’d never be surprised to see them on the podium. The underdog race starts with a BOLD team who finished 2nd last year and a Bagley team that finally broke out of their section to get here. Both teams have reason to make a last-minute charge into finals.
Class AA Kick: Ooh this one is going to be fun. Totino Grace is doing very well with a fun and stylish new routine for the year, but 4 teams all cracked 80 averages at sections. Faribault, Sartell, Austin, and Benilde St. Margarets are all poised to make moves for the medals this year. My gut tells me the section 4AA average scores might be a little lower than they deserved, so don’t rule out any/all of those teams making finals. All 3 teams from section 3AA can flip flop results as well after the wild and crazy sections scores. The phrase “they only got 3rd in their section” is not going to be relevant this year in sections 3 or 4.
Class AAA Kick: This kick division is stacked tight on the leaderboard with Eastview and Wayzata well secured for a trip to finals, and that’s about it. Anoka, Lakeville North, Chaska, Eden Prairie, and Prior Lake (in their kick state debut) are all within striking distance of medals and finals – or neither. What’s interesting is how little these teams have met, with the most relevant matchup having been back at Wayzata’s invite where only 4 of these top 7 names met and that was a solid month ago. Brainerd stands an outside shot having made finals last year and knowing exactly what it takes. Several teams here have leveraged their styles towards the new scoresheet and that could be all that sets them apart from the pack.