From left, Austin danceline captains Taylor Osmundson, Taryn Sims, McKenzie Besel and Mollie Mickelson have made dance their passion and are now leading the Packers to what they hope are ever-higher successes.

High-stepping to success

Published 9:50am Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Austin dance team has accomplished much, but that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied

Four years ago, Austin seniors Taylor Osmundson, McKenzie Besel, Taryn Sims and Mollie Mickelson were four scared eighth-graders trying to crack the lineup of the Austin Packer dance team.

This year, the four of them are captains for the Packers, who have advanced to 10 straight state meets coming into this season.

Besel remembers how nervous the group was when the four of them were in the same audition group as youngsters.

“We were all really nervous, and we spent the whole night together,” she said. “We didn’t know what to think, and we made sure to all wear matching stuff. We really wanted to be on varsity since we had been watching it since we were little.”

Being on the Packer dance team is a dream of many young dancers, and it as big a commitment that just about any high school athlete can make. The high-kick portion requires dancers to kick as high as their face 60 times, and the three-minute jazz performance demands all athletes to be on the same page at all times.

“It’s really special to be on our team,” Mickelson said. “You have to trust your teammates because everyone has to be doing the same thing.”

Because the varsity team has 41 athletes, the job of captain can be a demanding one. It helps that some of the athletes have danced together since they were in the Just For Kix program as 3-year-olds and they’ve grown up together through the years.

Osmundson said the team’s bond is about as strong as it can get.

“It’s a really strong bond throughout the girls,” she said. “Usually when you get that many girls together there’s fighting and drama, but there really isn’t that kind of feel on our team. It’s a unique thing, and there’s a lot of chemistry.”

So far that chemistry has paid off for the Packers in competitions. Austin competed in the very competitive Holy Angles invite for the first time in a few years, and it took fourth in high kick and fifth in jazz after not finishing better than seventh before. The Packers also took second in the high kick in Apple Valley, second in the kick and eighth in jazz in the Lakeville North Invite.

“We’ve never done this well this early on ever,” Sims said. “State is our biggest goal, but we can’t expect it and it’s a privilege to go.”

The Packers still have three more meets before the Section 1A meet, which takes place in Faribault Feb. 9, but getting to state for an 11th straight year would be a big accomplishment for this group.

Sims said that dance meets can be nerve-racking and the Packers don’t usually watch their opponents perform so they’re not distracted.

“The hardest part for me is the stress level,” she said. “You have three minutes to do everything perfectly. Everyone has to be on their ‘A’ game and if you’re not, there’s not much you can do.”

Osmundson said the Packers take special pride in being one of the more prepared teams at meets. Especially if the Packers are competing against Faribault, which is their biggest rival in the Big Nine.

“Our hard work shows,” she said. “Our team looks for the little things and I think that puts us above the other teams.”

Hard work isn’t just something the Packers talk about in practice. It’s a state of mind that is required to be a member of the team.

Besel, who also runs cross country and track for the Packers, said she gets a great workout at dance practice.

“If it was easy, there would be a lot more people doing it,” she said. “It’s an honor to be a captain on this team. We have a strong tradition of success.”

Austin will compete in the Henry Sibley Invite Jan. 5.

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