Old Abes dance to the top

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"I think that it's an incredible confidence booster," says Eau Claire Memorial dance coach Kristen Hartzel. "I think that the sky is the limit now for this team simply because they did so well. It's a validation of their hard work and they can only get better."

The school year hasn't even begun and the Eau Claire Memorial varsity dance team is earning high honors. This past weekend at the Badgerette Midwest Dance Championship in Chicago they were named class AA champions after finishing first in the open routine and second in hip hop. A full squad of returning state qualifiers, the girls committed to practicing through the summer to improve.

"I think it started out our team really well," says dance captain, Emily Ayres. "I think we have a good mood going on for this year and i think we're gonna really accomplish a lot of great things."

And with starting training so early, their routines are more polished.

"We have a lot more time to get them better, clean them, make them good," says dance captain, Shelly Olson. "So i think it says a lot and that we can go a lot farther than we did last year."

With high school football just around the corner, the girls will take center stage as a big part of the Friday night experience. Not only do they provide entertainment and school spirit, they want it to be known, they are athletes too.

"The athletic ability that they have, you know it's not just being able to count to the beat," says Hartzel, "you have to have flexibility, and endurance and strength"

For any critics that would say dance is not a sport, Olson challenges them.

"Come to a practice and try it themselves, its a lot harder than you think. Its not like we have a game where you have 2 hours to do everything that you can it's 2 minutes of all the energy that you have, putting everything that you have in those two minutes. So it's a lot more intense than people think," Olson says.

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