“This is it, this is the moment.”: UMD dance team makes history at national competition

The University of Minnesota Duluth has a new champ on campus; the school’s dance team.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:31 AM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - The University of Minnesota Duluth has a new champ on campus; the school’s dance team.

When you normally think of champions coming out of campus, it usually involves hockey sticks, pucks and goal nets, but last weekend, it took dancing shoes, shiny costumes and an unbreakable bond.

The dance team nabbed first place in the Open Jazz Category and third place in the Open Pom category at the Universal Dance Association College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, January 15.

The team is no stranger to excellence, having placed in the top five in the Open Jazz category before, but this was the first year the team earned a medal in the Open Pom round.

“Oh my gosh, this is it, this is the moment,” Sarah Breuing, a junior on the UMD dance team, said.

The team trains all year to get to Orlando, and their work paid off in trophies and big shiny medals.

““It still kind of hasn’t really set in, I kind of wake up everyday and I’m like oh my gosh,” Marren Neeb, a fellow junior on the team, said.

Neeb and her fellow dancers tried out for the team in Spring 2022, and worked through the summer to gel together.

“Very silly at times, but we also know when it’s time to get down to the hard work,” Neeb said.

It takes hard work, and the right steps, but also a team chemistry that is unmatched anywhere else in the country.

“We’ve had very late night practices followed by early morning workouts, and so, it’s just very nice to see everyone’s hard work paid off,” Breuing said.

Neeb said the team had a special bond this year.

“Right away, in the summer, we all kind of clicked,” she said.

That click makes it a lot easier for their coaches, like Alli Mackner to choreograph, and get the team in tip top shape for nationals.

“It just made the season really easy to coach,” Mackner said.

Getting to Orlando is probably one of the most nerve-wracking times, according to Mackner.

“It almost feels like you’re walking on glass,” she said.

Mackner is no stranger to the competition floor, having once been a Bulldog dancer herself.

“Back in the day we weren’t even this close to looking that good,” she said.

The team is now back in the Northland, from the warm sun of Florida, but the support behind them traveled the whole way.

“This year’s the biggest crowd of fans we’ve ever had at nationals,” Neeb said.

Neeb and Breuer, as well as Mackner, hope to repeat as champions next year, but for now, they’re trying to soak in being 2023 national champions.

“It just makes me tear up and gives me the chills,” Neeb said.