It was coach Amanda Gaines’ first time leading the University of Minnesota Dance Team after serving as assistant coach for four years — and she had a big job cut out for her.
The team had won the last four national championship going into last weekend’s UCA and UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship in Walt Disney World in Florida.
She kept the streak alive. The team won its fifth championship in both the pom and jazz divisions.
Gaines, who also danced on the team as an undergraduate, said she felt the pressure to repeat but tried to worry only about what the team could control, like winning choreography and positive attitudes.
“That’s the hard part with dance and a lot of artistic sports,” she said. “It’s in the hands of judges, so we really just tried to put our best product on the floor.”
Kinesiology senior Grace Gerring, who has been on the team for four years, said she and her teammates focused on mastering the basics this year and drew inspiration from remembering why they started dancing.
“It has been such an enjoyable experience, and I couldn’t have done it without amazing coaches and teammates standing by me every step of the way,” she said.
Gaines said the team plays a unique role at the university because for the majority of the season, they cheer on other sports teams. While dance doesn’t receive as much attention as other sports, she said, it has increased in the past few years.
“That’s been really exciting to see,” Gaines said, “but I think you don’t necessarily do it to get the recognition.”
Rebecca Harrington is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.