Hard work and a can-do attitude paid off for Northwestern High School freshman Lyvia Carlson. She earned an All State Dancer award at state competition in La Crosse earlier this month, naming her one of the top 10 dancers in Division 3 statewide.

“She represented her school very well,” said Anna Haskins, who coaches the Northwestern High School dance team with Crystal Esselstrom. “It showed that this is exactly what hard work and dedication looks like and when you put the effort into it, this is what happens. The team is super proud of her.”

The team did not progress past regionals in Wausau, but Carlson also competed as a solo dancer this year. She ended up making the Tiger record book; Haskins said Carlson is the first NHS dancer to earn the solo all-state award.

Traditionally, the competition was only available to seniors. Although the state opened it to all high school dancers this year, Haskins said, most of Carlson’s competitors were seniors.

“I don’t know if we discussed that detail with her,” said Haskins, owner of Lake Effect Dance Studio in Poplar.

When the coaches shared information on individual competition with the team, Carlson was quick to volunteer. In addition to practicing team routines five nights a week, the 15-year-old carved out extra time at Lake Effect, where she is a student, to work on a lyrical solo piece set to “Never Enough” from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”

The Iron River teen has been dancing since she was 10. She transitioned to dance after years of karate training in Superior, where she earned a red belt with black stripes - one step below a black belt.

Her older brother inspired her to take up karate; watching her mother’s dance videos prompted Carlson to enroll in dance classes. The teen said she appreciated how her coaches have pushed her to do her best.

“It’s a lot of work, and a lot of people think it’s just basic ballet stuff, but it’s a lot harder than people think,” Carlson said of dancing. “It’s a lot of cardio, strength. It’s very, sometimes, mentally hard because you have to know every move and everything.”

In addition to being an award-winning solo dancer, Carlson is a team player and natural leader.

“She’s very dedicated. She was there every practice and every performance,” Esselstrom said. “You could always count on her being there and to lift her teammates. She’s also captain of the dance team. She’ll lift up other dancers and encourage them and help them with things that maybe they were struggling with.”

What’s next for the freshman? She aims to tackle solo dance competition again next year. Carlson said she loves the ability to express herself through music and movement, and plans to continue dancing through college.