Aspen High School dance team brings home gold with national championship
Taking home the first-place trophy at the United Dance Association nationals was bittersweet for the Aspen High School dance team senior captains and their coach, who has been with them since they were freshmen.
“There’s no better way to see my seniors and the whole team finish the year out,” coach Maddy Miller said.
The dance team traveled this past weekend to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, for the high school national championships, winning the intermediate varsity pom division on Sunday.
The team was greeted on Monday at the airport with a police escort and arrived to the Aspen Middle School parking lot to find it packed with supporters celebrating their win.
The three seniors on the team — Sophie Genshaft, Riley MacArthur and Abby Romero — also serve as team captains. They have all competed with the team since their freshman year. Miller, a former Denver Nuggets dancer, took over the program in the summer of 2019 and has long had the help of assistant coach, Gioia Bartalo.
Under Miller, the Skiers have won a pair of state championships — firsts for the program — including last winter, but a national championship sets an even higher standard going forward.
“This is the first group I have taken for four years straight, and I think it’s such an honor to be able to see them go out on top with everything they’ve done,” Miller said.
Even though it wasn’t their best performance, she said, the team still came out of semifinals sitting in first place. The second-place team was right on their heels, scoring only 0.5 behind. In order to come out on top, the AHS team and coaches knew they would need to put in extra work before finals.
“We went through the score sheets, had two 2-hour practices in the parking lot, and spent multiple hours going through spacing and videos,” Miller said.
“We were really focused on our formations and nailing them on the floor,” said Romero, adding they had never danced on that floor with the routine they were doing. “We spent hours on Saturday night going over formation and memorizing each exact spot as it pertained to the floor we were going to be dancing on the next day.”
The win marked a full-circle moment for Romero and her family, she said. Romero’s older sisters danced with the team when they were in high school and have watched the team grow for the past four years.
“Winning a championship at the end of the Romero sisters’ time on the dance team is insane to me …. I couldn’t be happier,” she said.
Genshaft said the extra work the team put in between the semifinals and finals made the win even more special.
“It makes me really happy that we were able to dance as a team and just try our best and do our best and come out with such an amazing outcome,” Genshaft said.
MacArthur added that she felt pride for her team and her hometown after winning and wouldn’t want to end her senior year on the dance team any other way.
“I’ve never felt so happy to represent Aspen,” she said. “Our community is so special, and we have such an individuality to us. I think we were able to go out there and really show them who Aspen is and how we’re going to fight for something.”
The team set out with the goal of giving it their best in finals, and Miller believes they did that and more.
“Them walking off the floor truly being impressed with themselves and knowing how proud they should be is the best feeling as a coach,” she said.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.