Aspen High dance team heads to Denver looking for first state championship
The one thing the Aspen High School spirit and dance team wanted more than anything coming into the season was respect. For one, few, including many of the dancers’ classmates, are unaware AHS even has a competitive team.
So when Maddy Miller took over as coach this past summer, she began to mold the team into something others would finally take notice of.
“My goal was to make them into a professional dance team in a sense of being professional in all aspects of life and it goes along with the way they act and our motto is ‘Classy, confident and kind,’” Miller said. “It’s not just cheering at games for the teams. Obviously they do that, but our side of competing, which no one has really seen, they are doing really well and it’s something the school has never really had. So it’s exciting to implement something new for them.”
The AHS dancers will have a chance to make school history Saturday when they compete in the Colorado High School Activities Association state spirit championships at the Denver Coliseum. Aspen is one of six teams vying for the Class 3A poms title, the others being SkyView Academy, University, Grand Valley, Riverdale Ridge and Bayfield.
The Skiers are confident in large part because they haven’t lost to a 3A school in competition this season and have often fared well or better than many of the larger 4A and 5A teams they’ve seen.
“It’s exciting, but the biggest thing I keep trying to tell them is dance is a very hard thing to judge. It’s very subject to opinion, so you can never take it personally,” Miller said. “It’s very much a team sport in the aspect of everyone needs to look like one dancer, which is hard. But that’s what makes it so exciting I guess.”
Aspen has a team of 14 dancers — co-captained by seniors Juliana Nickell and Louise Lipsey — with eight or nine expected to actually compete Saturday. AHS is scheduled to perform at 8:41 a.m. Saturday in what will be a roughly two-minute routine. The top two teams will advance to finals on Saturday night, with the champions being crowned sometime after 10 p.m.
“It’s a really long day for the girls, but they are super excited,” Miller said. “You spend five months preparing for two minutes. It’s intense. It’s a lot of pressure, but also they’ve been doing this dance for five months, so it’s like the back of their hand. They know every bit of it.”
Win or lose, this isn’t the end of the season for Aspen. The team also will compete at nationals later this winter at Disney World. The Skiers qualified after a strong showing at their Nov. 16 regional competition in Denver, taking fourth out of 20 teams and getting the needed score to be able to make the trek to Orlando.
For Miller, it could be the start of her next chapter in dancing. Born in Aspen before moving to Denver and attending Cherry Creek High School, she has been a professional dancer, including two seasons spent dancing for the Denver Nuggets. However, multiple hip surgeries have pretty much ended her dancing career before returning to Aspen and landing the coaching job with AHS.
“It’s amazing how far they’ve come in five months, and I know some days they literally hate me because I’m not an easy coach sometimes and I’m very strict. I don’t let them get away with anything,” Miller said. “But I think they’ve learned a lot and they have so much discipline now and overall I feel like I would love to coach as long as possible. If I can’t dance, I might as well show other people how to.”
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Once the Aspen High School defense woke up — random 4 p.m. kickoffs need some getting used to — the Skiers were able to dictate Saturday’s football game en route to a 22-7 victory over visiting Steamboat Springs on the AHS turf.