College Dance Team Central

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Minnesota Dance Team Adds to Dynasty


If three is a charm, then four must be something special.

The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher dance team earned elite recognition recently, as the team won its fourth consecutive national title at the 2006 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships on Jan. 13-15 at the Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. The Gophers became the first dance team to win four straight national titles in the past decade. The dance team also finished second in the hip-hop competition.

“We left a lasting impression of Minnesota at this year’s competition,” senior co-captain Casey Horton said. “We had some very high expectations and goals at the beginning of the season and knew the challenges that were before us. The dance team’s routine was completely different in style and expression than we had performed the past three years.”

This year’s performance was different in that it was performed to instrumental music entitled “God’s Breath.” Horton, along with the team’s other senior co-captain Tara Peckskamp, embraced the new routine and style and challenged the rest of the team to accept it despite how radical it was compared to other years.

“Our goal was to provide expression of the music through our movements,” Amber Struzyk, the dance team coach said. “We wanted our performance to reach the audience and move them. Most routines dance to the music, while ours was intended to move with the music.”

With such a profound change in dance style, the team had to work relentlessly to accomplish their goal. The dance team took on the motto of “No one will ever work harder than us, EVER!” That motto certainly paid off.

Another accomplishment for the dance team was taking their second place finish in the hip-hop competition. The second-place finish was an improvement from the team’s fourth-place result in 2005 – the first year the hip-hop competition was included in the overall championship format.

“We were very excited about our second-place finish in the hip-hop competition,” Horton said. “Most of our competitors had routines that were professionally choreographed with a strong hip-hop emphasis. Our routine was completely developed on our own without any outside professional help.”

From 1996 to 2002 the University dance team’s average finish at the National Championships was sixth place, but since then the team’s work ethic, skill and style has put them on top. To try something different in a competition that Struzyk described “as the best it has ever been” is quite an accomplishment.

“I could not be more proud of this team, they danced like champions,” Struzyk said. “We take pride in representing the University of Minnesota. We have a tremendous University, athletic program and state and it was rewarding to know that we could win for them.”

Along with the dance team, the University of Minnesota cheer team and Goldy Gopher competed in the national competition. The cheer team placed 13th overall by performing a routine full of difficult stunts and original moves.

“This was an extremely difficult competition,” assistant coach Beth Frees said. “We actually performed better this year than when we finished in eighth at last year’s competition. It was also nice to see a strong showing from the Big Ten, which had six teams make the finals. The southern schools usually have a reign on the national competition, taking up most of the top ten positions. With all of the hard work and dedication, one of these years we will break through, just like the dance team. I am very proud of all the team members. They did a wonderful job representing the University of Minnesota.”

Goldy placed fifth in the mascot competition, but he did score higher than his archrival Bucky the Badger, who placed 10th. Goldy performed a school spirited routine full of props and fan support.

The spirit squad, which is an ensemble of the dance team, cheer team and Goldy, was the only team in the country to receive full reimbursement for its trip to the national competition. Each year teams and mascots from around the nation send in videotapes of their performances to the organizers and the top seeds are selected from each category to receive funds to travel and compete. Minnesota was the only school to be among the top in each category based off the videotapes.

The 2006 college cheer, dance and mascot national championships will be broadcast on ESPN throughout the year. To view the results of this years’ competition as well as the broadcast dates you can check

“We have an extremely dedicated and hard-working group,” Frees said. “We expect our team to work extremely hard each year in preparing for this event. It is the highlight to a season of hard work to be able to compete for a national championship.”

The drive for five has already started.

Written by Katie Fornasiere


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