The Chatfield High School dance team is competing at tournaments this winter. In front, from left, are Jasmine Donaldson, Liz Hisey, Frankie Littrell, Demery Little and Larissa Martin. In back are Alex Kreter, Gracie Grant, Haley Woltz, Callie Spelhaug and Brooklynn Johnson.  The Chatfield High School dance team is competing at tournaments this winter. In front, from left, are Jasmine Donaldson, Liz Hisey, Frankie Littrell, Demery Little and Larissa Martin. In back are Alex Kreter, Gracie Grant, Haley Woltz, Callie Spelhaug and Brooklynn Johnson.
The Chatfield High School dance team is competing at tournaments this winter. In front, from left, are Jasmine Donaldson, Liz Hisey, Frankie Littrell, Demery Little and Larissa Martin. In back are Alex Kreter, Gracie Grant, Haley Woltz, Callie Spelhaug and Brooklynn Johnson. The Chatfield High School dance team is competing at tournaments this winter. In front, from left, are Jasmine Donaldson, Liz Hisey, Frankie Littrell, Demery Little and Larissa Martin. In back are Alex Kreter, Gracie Grant, Haley Woltz, Callie Spelhaug and Brooklynn Johnson.
Alex, Gracie, Callie, Larissa and Jasmine are kickin' it, Gopher style.

"I'd like people to know how hard they work and how much fun they have...that dance is a sport," said Chatfield High School dance team coach Melissa Delaney, speaking of the team's nightly practice sessions to prepare for performances and tournaments at home and away.

"The girls warm up, stretch, dance and work out for two to three hours almost every night," she said. "They have a set of criteria they need to follow for both the jazz and kick routines. Jazz has to have a leap, a turn and a jump choreographed into a two-and-a-half to three-minute routine. Kick has to have 50 to 75 high kicks above the waist, choreographed into a three- to three-and-a-half-minute routine."

Delaney has been coaching the team since it formed in the fall of 2011 and team members include junior Alex Kreter, sophomores Gracie Grant, Callie Spelhaug, Haley Woltz, Demery Little, Frankie Littrell and Liz Hisey, and seventh graders Brooklynn Johnson, Larissa Martin, Jasmine Donaldson and Adrianna Crawford, who meet to practice four to five days a week after school and prepare for public appearances and competitions.

The girls appreciate participating in dance because of "the ability to show off their creativity through choreography," and being on the team for the "fun memories and how different skills come together to form one team." Delaney hopes that they like "doing their best and seeing how far they have come" from the first practices.

Tournaments on their schedule included one held in Zumbrota on Dec. 14, another in Lake City on Dec. 21, one in Winona on Jan. 11, and a conference tournament in St. Charles this past Saturday, and upcoming tournaments this Saturday, Jan. 25, and a section tournament on Feb. 8 at Dover-Eyota. They'll also perform on Jan. 30 at the varsity basketball game, having performed at this past Monday evening's varsity game.

Delaney has encountered challenges while coaching the team, but she feels confident now that she's established the program in the school district.

"I started the program three years ago without a previous coach, and never having been a coach and not having another coach to tell me what to do was the hardest," she said. "From planning practices to scheduling competitions, along with not having a strong dance background, made it much more challenging."

She enjoys coaching the team because "it brings back great memories of being in high school and dancing and cheering! It's also seeing how their skills have improved since beginning three years ago," she stated.

She invited interested high school girls to watch the calendar for end-of-season team auditions. "We plan to have try-outs at the end of the season. I would like to establish a varsity and a JV team, which would be new for next year. This would mean hopefully hiring a JV coach."