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Tigers dance their way back to state

Member of the Northwestern High School dance team perform at the WACPC Western Regional last weekend in New Richmond. The Tigers finished fourth in Division 4 Pom to advance to Saturday’s state meet at the La Crosse Center. (Dave Newman/New Richmond News)

The Tigers are back.

After a five-year absence from the Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Pom Coaches (WACPC) state dance meet, the Northwestern High School dance team returned to the competition last year.

This year, the Tigers are making their second straight appearance after placing fourth in the Division 4 pom category at last week’s regional competition in New Richmond.

“Last year we made it basically on a technicality,” NHS coach Lisa Lombard said. “This year to hear our name announced, that moment is priceless. The team earned it on their own merit.”

Northwestern will compete at 9:36 a.m. Saturday at the WACPC state meet in La Crosse.

Members of the dance team are: senior Morgyn Lombard; juniors Kaddie Levine and Karlie Reed; sophomores Allison Eller, Hana Smykalski, Breanne Tapani and Haley Zinmer; and freshmen Carley Bottolfson, Brekken Evanson, Elise Mattson, Brooklynn Meiners, Justine Moss, Lillian Livingston and McKena Tobiason.

Erin Gotelaere is the team manager, and Lisa Lombard and Anna Lundberg-Haskins are coaches.

“It’s very rewarding for how hard we worked in the beginning of the season to achieve this,” said Morgyn Lombard, senior captain.

The Tigers have a young team this year. Morgyn Lombard is the only senior, and seven of the 14 team members are freshmen.

Yet despite the team’s youth, the coaches decided to step up the level of difficulty for this year’s pom routine.

“It’s very fast and fun, and it’s over before you know it,” Lisa Lombard said.

Lundberg-Haskins, a 2006 graduate of Northwestern High School and founder of Lake Effect Dance, choreographed the dance. She was a member of the Tiger dance team when it qualified for state in six consecutive years, from 2002 to 2007.

“So she kind of knew what was expected and needed and put us in a position to do well,” Lombard said.

The Tigers’ routine is set to the song “Turbulence,” by Laidback Luke and Steve Aoki, and the dancers are dressed as flight attendants. The dance starts off fast and zips along to the last note.

“It’s fast. Really fast,” Morgyn Lombard said.

“And we have fun choreography. The judges noted that too,” said junior captain Kaddie Levine.

The two captains have helped tweak the routine throughout the season. Both have been dancing since they were toddlers and now work with Lundberg-Haskins at Lake Effect Dance.

“We definitely made a lot of changes from the beginning when we learned it until now, just to help fit the team better,” Morgyn Lombard said. “I think that was the most difficult thing, training your brain to do one thing and then changing it.”

Northwestern continued to make changes to the routine until the last minute.

Levine said the team actually changed the performance two days before the regional competition.

“So your body’s been doing this routine for a month, and we change it and expect them to have it,” Lisa Lombard said. “But they did it.”

On Wednesday, the Tigers were running through their final revisions before Saturday’s state meet.

The team doesn’t expect to challenge for the Division 4 title this year, but they hope the experience will give them something to build on for the future.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for all of them, but for my freshmen, to get that experience, they’ll want to go back and work hard next year to go back,” Lisa Lombard said.

Local support

When the Tigers compete at state, they can count on at least one loud cheering section Saturday morning. The Superior dance team, which competes later in the day, plans to attend Northwestern’s morning performance.

“We’re kind of out of nowhere from the other teams, and it’s nice to have that team supporting you when you dance,” Morgyn Lombard said.

“It’s fun to hear them cheering you on too.”

The Tigers have attended performances to watch the Spartan dance team, and Superior coach Casey Lozon frequently consults with Lisa Lombard on their routines. The dancers offer critiques to each other too, and many are friends

“It’s nice that they feel from us what we feel from them,” Lisa Lombard said.