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Alexandria dance team enjoys the excitement of hosting its home invite

The Cardinals took fifth among the 11 high kick teams that performed at Alexandria Area High School in the Class AA/AAA invite on Saturday.

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From left to right, Alexandria varsity high kick team members Jenna Bartosiewski, Mya Stender, Sydni Rehovsky, Greta Zenner, Madi Lynch, and Maia Fuglestad compete during the Cardinals' home invite on Jan. 8, 2022. The Alexandria varsity high kick team finished fifth in the Class AA/AAA competition against 10 other programs. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Alexandria Area High School dance team often has just one chance to host a meet of this magnitude during the course of a season, which is what made Saturday’s Alexandria Invite so fun for the Cardinals.

A total of 11 varsity Class AAA and AA teams competed against each other in front of a big crowd at AAHS during the morning and early afternoon. Sixteen more Class A programs were scheduled to wrap up the day through Saturday night. It makes for an exciting atmosphere as more friends and family get a chance to see Alexandria perform.

“It’s super fun to host,” Alexandria senior Greta Zenner said. “It’s fun to have people from our town get to come because they don’t always get the opportunity to drive where we go, so we definitely have a bigger crowd. It’s fun to invite other teams that we normally go to, so they can come here and see our school and perform here with us.”

Zenner is one of three captains for the Cardinals, with fellow senior Heidi Carstensen and junior Kya Burkey helping to lead a relatively inexperienced team this winter. Of the 18 dancers on the season-opening roster in grades 9-12, eight of them were new to the team.

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Alexandria varsity dance team members Jenna Bartosiewski, left, and Maia Fuglestad perform the Cardinals' jazz routine at the Alexandria Invite on Jan. 8, 2022. Bartosiewski and Fuglestad are both part of an 8-member freshmen class for the Cardinals. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The top-five varsity finishers from the Alexandria Invite were announced during the awards ceremony in both jazz and high kick. The Cardinals made it into that top five in the kick competition as they finished fifth with a rank point total of 15.

That was just behind fourth-place Marshall (14), as Rocori finished third (8), Holy Family was second (7) and Delano (3) won high kick.

“We do more kick in practice than we do jazz,” Zenner said of Alexandria’s kick routine being ahead of their jazz routine right now. “Both kick and jazz, we take the time to do what we need to do. With our performance today, we used what we did in practice and put that on the floor.”

The Cardinals are fine-tuning their routines as they work to make sure they are at their best by season’s end. That means trying to up the degree of difficulty for each performance while making sure they can perform them at a high level.

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Alexandria senior co-captain Heidi Carstensen performs in the varsity high kick competition during the Cardinals' home invite on Jan. 8, 2022. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Carstensen was happy with the way both jazz and high kick teams performed as they tried to take some changes from practice and apply them to competition.

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“We’ve been working a lot the last couple of weeks making changes, especially in jazz,” Carstensen said. “We really brought the energy and showed what we’ve been working on for the past week. It is a process. It takes us a while because we need to first pick what we’re going to change, and then change it. Then teach everyone the changes and then go over it a couple times. It’s definitely a process, but we’re able to do it.”

Holy Family won the Class AA/AAA varsity jazz competition on Saturday with a rank point total of 3. Delano was second at 6.5, and Detroit Lakes (9), Rocori (11.5) and Marshall (15) rounded out the top five in jazz.

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Alexandria freshman dancer Sydni Rehovsky holds her pose on a jump during the Cardinals' jazz routine at the Alexandria Invite on Jan. 8, 2022. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“Some of our main focus points are turns, and then height of kicks,” Burkey said of areas the Cardinals are looking to improve upon. “We want to be able to kick up to our faces no problem and have the whole team at that super high level.”

The Alexandria varsity jazz team was seventh with a ranking point total of 21.5. The Cardinals also competed in the JV jazz division where they finished 10th (27).

"This is the best I have seen all three of our teams perform," Alexandria head coach Kassie Gibbons said. "It was a huge step up from our last meet in Willmar. We are getting more consistent and increasing our endurance and kick height."

It takes every team member being on the same page and in sync for things to really flourish.

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From left to right, Alexandria varsity high kick dancers Mya Stender, Madi Lynch, Marly Nolz, and Sydni Rehovsky perform at the Cardinals' home invite on Jan. 8, 2022. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“Dance is super fun because it’s such a team sport,” Burkey said. “That’s the best part about it. You’re out there on the floor with the girls you practice with for like three hours every day. You get to hype each other up and cheer each other on. It’s a sport where you build off of each other, and that’s the best part about it.”

The Cardinals are not far away from the championship portion of their season with the Central Lakes Conference championship in Sartell set for Jan. 14. Alexandria’s Section 4AA championship meet is set for Feb. 5 at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.

Section 4AA features 15 total programs, including a couple that finished in the top five in Alexandria on Saturday in Rocori and Detroit Lakes.

“Our goals are always to just improve as we go and increase our scores in things like kick technique and visual effectiveness,” Carstensen said. “That’s a lot of the reason why we make those changes, but we’re always just trying to be better than we were last time.”

ALEXANDRIA INVITE

CLASS AA/AAA VARSITY HIGH KICK TEAM SCORES - 1. Delano - 3; 2. Holy Family - 7; 3. ROCORI - 8; 4. Marshall - 14; 5. Alexandria - 15; 6. Albany - 17; 7. Moorhead - 22; 8. Willmar - 26; 9. Bemidji - 28.5; 10. Detroit Lakes - 30; 11. Big Lake - 31.5

VARSITY JAZZ TEAM SCORES - 1. Holy Family - 3; 2. Delano - 6.5; 3. Detroit Lakes - 9; 4. ROCORI - 11.5; 5. Marshall - 15; 6. Bemidji - 18; 7. Alexandria - 21.5; 8. Big Lake - 23; 9. Albany - 25.5; 10. Moorhead - 29; 11. Willmar - 30

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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