The Midland University Dance Team and Competition Cheer Team both had outstanding performances Saturday afternoon during the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) championships at Hastings College.
Competing against numerous other schools encompassing the conference, both teams finished first place in their given divisions.
Midland Dance won the championships with a team score of 88.38 out of a possible 100 points, Morningside College placed second with 80.38 points and Hastings College finished third overall with a score of 80.13.
On the cheer side, Midland Cheer finished with a team score of 66.5 out of a possible 100 points, Hastings College finished second with a score of 65.13 and Doane University finished third with 61.75 points.
The victories continued a hot streak for both programs — Midland Dance has won the past five conference championships and Midland Cheer has won four out of the last five years. Both collegiate cheer and dance have been considered varsity NAIA sports for the past two seasons.
Head Cheer Coach Kevin Ellstrand said this season has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but his squad kept persevering and that factor ultimately has paved the road to success.
“It has been a fairly rough start to what we are really trying to build here,” Ellstrand said Tuesday afternoon. “We had 17 freshman come in this past year and many come from a Nebraska background where the stunting is very limited. So the stuff we do in college compared to what they did in high school can make things difficult. It’s a big learning curve.”
Ellstrand, in his first full year as head coach, said while many new faces are on his squad they are progressing at a faster rate than first anticipated. The team has reached a high competition level in six months, which he originally thought could take as long as three years.
A lot of the progress made, he said, comes from his team buying into the concept he’s brought forward.
“A lot of this (success) has happened because of the expectations we set over the summer, and then holding the girls — and three guys — accountable,” he said. “They really want it. They want to get better and they are very competitive people.”
Head Dance Coach Katie Speicher, also in her first season after moving to Nebraska from the Orange County area in California, said it’s been a privilege taking over such a talented team. Speicher’s squad is undefeated in three competitions this year and won its NAIA Nationals Championships tournament in 2017.
Speicher said taking over a talented dance team helped make it a smooth transition for her when she started as head coach.
“I’m really lucky that I’m already coming into a fantastic, established program,” she said. “We have a really strong program with a great reputation, and I am really lucky that I can build upon such a great foundation. Stepping into it there isn’t a lot of foundational work I have to do, which is nice stepping into that as opposed to building something from scratch.”
The team’s talent and depth was displayed through its 8-point victory over Morningside, she said. Generally, places are determined by no more than a point or two — sometimes much less. Coming to Nebraska, she was unaware of how much in-state talent would be at her fingertips.
“You don’t expect it to be a mecca of talent, but it really is,” Speicher said.
Both cheer and dance teams will compete Feb. 23 at NAIA Regionals in Sioux City, Iowa, at Morningside College, with the possibility of competing at the NAIA National Competition held March 9-10 at Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma.