AHS dancer Riley MacArthur chosen to represent state at CHSAA media day
Riley MacArthur, Ari Baumgartner also earned All-American status earlier this summer for the AHS dance team
As of Monday, Riley MacArthur is the face of spirit and dance for the Colorado High School Activities Association this year. This is something the Aspen High School junior didn’t know would happen until late last week.
“It was all very new and exciting. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first,” she said. “It was amazing. It was an amazing experience and I just found out three days before we actually got to go.”
MacArthur, along with AHS dance coach Maddy Miller, was chosen by CHSAA to represent the sport this past Monday at the third annual Broncos High School Media Day at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver. The event invites select athletes from across the state to come to the Denver Broncos football stadium and take part in a photo shoot, preseason press conferences, as well as lessons on how to interact with the media.
Typically heavy on bigger, Front Range schools, MacArthur and Miller both understood how special it was for a smaller school like Aspen to be able to represent on that sort of stage.
“It’s definitely an honor for her and myself to be represented like that,” said Miller, a former Denver Nuggets dancer who is in her third season as the AHS coach. “Riley had a full press conference with Broncos media, learning how to do press conferences, learning how to deal with media, learning how to pretty much represent herself as a high-class athlete. There were a lot of lessons learned for her.”
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MacArthur’s selection is certainly warranted, as back in July she was one of two current Skiers to earn All-American recognition through a Universal Dance Association camp in Colorado Springs, alongside AHS senior Ari Baumgartner. The girls spent three days dancing in front of judges to earn the status, which comes with invites to perform in various UDA events as well as a chance to take part in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“That was such a great honor,” MacArthur said. “Getting recognition for it felt really great. I was very proud of myself, and Ari as well.”
Under Miller, the AHS dance team has established itself as one of the best in the state, highlighted by the program’s first state championship back in 2019, Miller’s first season. The team came up just short of a repeat performance at state last year, but is poised to make another run at the championship when the competition season hits full stride come November.
The team has a roster of 19 this school year, a record high under Miller and assistant coach Gioia Bartalo, including a balanced mix of veterans and newcomers. Having two All-Americans doesn’t hurt, either.
“We definitely expect a lot from these kids but know it’s because they can elevate to that level,” Miller said. “After the year we had, most of them, all they want to do is be able to dance and be able to show everything they can do because they didn’t get the opportunity to last year.”
Because of the pandemic, the AHS dancers rarely had the chance to perform in front of a live audience last year. They only made it to a few football games in the spring and even the state championship was performed behind closed doors with limited spectators. A few of the other competitions were even held virtually.
But, for now at least, the upcoming season looks to be somewhat back to normal in terms of performing at football games — the Skiers kickoff their season at home on Aug. 27 — and a series of in-person competitions beginning the first week of November, leading up to the state championship at the end of the month.
“I’m so excited. The reason I dance is to be out there and have fun and do my best,” MacArthur said. “To be out there with the team again, to be spiriting and cheering for the football team, is going to be really exciting.”
Still, the competitions are at the heart of what makes them a team. The Skiers have 6 a.m. practices each day and have been learning their dances for football, but will soon shift their focus solely on learning their routines for the state competitions. They are even working with a studio based in Denver that should help them make a run at a second championship in three years.
“At the end of the day we do have to focus on our sport and our competition, so we’ll definitely be attending everything and making sure we are on top of everything,” Miller said. “After last year’s state experience, that was a hard loss for us, and obviously it’s so hard because our sport is so subjective. You can’t guarantee anything and I know these girls — and now we have one gentleman on our team this year — are definitely out for some blood this year and really want to come back and show them why they deserve to win again.”
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