Pierce County dance teams showcase talent at state

By Joe Peine
Posted 2/7/24

The Wisconsin state championships for dance and cheerleading teams took place in La Crosse last weekend where the Wisconsin Association of Cheer and Pom Coaches hosted their annual event featuring …

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Pierce County dance teams showcase talent at state


The Wisconsin state championships for dance and cheerleading teams took place in La Crosse last weekend where the Wisconsin Association of Cheer and Pom Coaches hosted their annual event featuring over 1,000 competitors and 10,000 spectators.

This two-day event showcased hundreds of performances in four categories: Hip-hop, jazz, high-kick and traditional pom, with each team selecting which genre they would like to dance too.  


The Ellsworth Panthers dancers brought home a trophy on Saturday when they took fourth place the state for their jazz dance performance.

Considering that Ellsworth doesn’t have a cheer team, they only compete in the dance portion of contests. In season, they danced in hip hop, jazz and pom for three of their competitions and pom and jazz at regionals where they qualified for WACPC State Dance for their Jazz performance. 

This year, they placed fourth in the state in jazz, which is nothing new for them. Ellsworth has qualified for state many times, including four of the past five years.

Head Coach Angie McHardy describes this season as wonderful.

“We have shared many successes. Over the course of our season we have placed well,” McHardy said. “At the Menomonie holiday classic, we placed first in hip hop and second in pom and jazz. At the River Falls Wildcat Invite, we placed first in hip hop, jazz, and pom, and in the Western Wisconsin Conference, we placed second in jazz and pom and first in hip hop.” 

Overall, Ellsworth placed second in the Middle Border Conference, and the Panthers also received the honor of taking the highest scoring routine for pom. Senior soloists Corynn Jahnke placed second, Jocelyn Boyle placed third and the duet of Isabelle Pechacek and SaVaya Moorhouse placed first.

The senior soloists both got First All Conference Team honors. Jahnke placed first in Middle Border Conference and Boyle placed fifth. Pechacek and Moorehouse’s duet placed fourth, earning Second All Conference Team honors. 

The Panthers then moved on to postseason competition, and the first stop was the regional competition held in Wausau at DC Everest. Ellsworth took third in jazz there, and this qualified them to advance to state. Pechacek and Moorhouse also placed ninth with their duet and were acknowledged at regionals for this achievement. Jahnke’s solo qualified her to move on and compete for All-State as well.

Ultimately, the Panthers were rewarded for their efforts in advancing to La Crosse as they took home the fourth place trophy in jazz.

Coach McHardy says Jahnke’s solo was flawless, and she was selected to receive All State honors.

“The best way to sum up this year is ‘perfect.’ This group of dancers continually impressed me, and I can speak for my other coaches on their behalf because I know that they agree,” McHardy said. “State week we had several choreography changes, and tweaks, and the girls worked hard and fixed what needed to be fixed, making their state performance perfect.”

McHardy relates that immediately after the performers dance, they have the opportunity to watch their performance.

“It was an emotional moment, all the dancers and coaches cried. That moment, you could see that each girl was proud of themselves, their team and the performance. It was perfect,” McHardy said. “To get announced at the state level is so exciting. Not only is it awesome to come home with some hardware, because it totally is, but those little moments mean more than the wooden trophy.”  

Going into next year, McHardy says that Ellsworth will be losing two seniors in Jahnke and Boyle.

“They will be so missed. What they have given to the team will leave a legacy and impact for future teams. As the saying goes, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. We will still cry when we officially make them Ellsworth Alumni, but we are so proud and excited for their next chapters,” McHardy said. 

As for the coaching side of things, the mother-daughter team of McHardy and Alyssa Pechacek will return for another season. Pechacek is an Ellsworth dance team alum and a former University of Mankato Dance Team member who placed first at UDA nationals in 2022 in both jazz and pom. McHardy says she feels lucky and blessed to be working hand in hand with her. Also returning to the team will be assistant coach volunteer Kylie Fagnan.

With the gang almost all getting back together next season, the needle is pointing up for the Ellsworth Panthers dance program.

Spring Valley

The Spring Valley Vallettes competed in the state dance competition on Saturday after qualifying at the regional competition.

Of the four categories available in the competitive season in Wisconsin that is organized by the WACPC (Wisconsin Association of Cheer and Pom Coaches), Spring Valley competes in pom and jazz.

Head Coach Tiffany Schultz says they accomplished what they set out to do this season.

“Spring Valley's main goal each season is to qualify for our state competition, and it’s a goal we have achieved seven times since I have started coaching 12 years ago,” Schultz said. “We have not placed at state yet, but that is definitely something we hope to do in the future.” 

Schultz says their 2023-2024 season has been full of pleasant surprises, challenges, and rewarding victories.

“We started our competitive season strongly at the Menomonie Holiday Classic by earning a third place finish in the Small Varsity Pom category which we followed with an even more effective performance that won second place at the River Falls Wildcat Invitational,” Schultz said. “Both of these helped our team gain confidence going into the two most important competitions of our season, which are Conference and Regionals.”

Coach Schultz says the Vallettes felt both success and disappointment at conference, as they placed second in the Dunn-St. Croix. While that is a great achievement, the team was striving to win the championship title, so being named runner-up gave the team some fuel to fight harder at their regional competition.

Individually, Spring Valley’s soloists had an excellent day at Conference, with all three competitors in Abby Biggs, Danielle Nyhus, and Dani Ramirez being named First Team All-Conference. Biggs was also named the Dunn-St. Croix Solo Champion.

Schultz says they pushed the team hard in the two weeks between Conference and Regionals, asking them to take on the challenge of new choreography, which ultimately made a more difficult routine. The team's collective effort paid off tremendously, as they qualified for State competition in both team categories, something the team has only done once before this year. Biggs was also selected as an All-State finalist, which, according to Schultz, means they ended their regular season exceeding their goals.

“Both myself and my assistant coach Shawna O'Meara are so proud of our team. We see the consistent work that our dancers put in daily to strengthen their skills. They set high standards for themselves and put in so much energy to meet those goals,” Schultz said.

Coach Schultz says they always tell their team they want to leave the floor feeling like they left everything on it, knowing they did their absolute best in that moment.

“Several times this season, that feeling of pride in the fulfillment of dedicated work has been there as we walk off the floor. As coaches, it's also important that our dancers are enjoying what they do, so we want them to be happy with themselves and their team when they are performing,” Schultz said. “Qualifying for State for both of our routines was an unexpected but well-deserved result of that commitment and care from our team.”

Going into the next season, Spring Valley will be losing two seniors to graduation with both Biggs and Nyhus moving on.

“Losing them will be tough, they have been great leaders and are both super talented. Whenever we have graduates, we are worried about how our team's dynamic will change, but we always have new students join our team who learn quickly and are willing to put in the work to succeed,” Schultz said. “It’s tough to be in the world of competitive dance because it is so different from other sports with far less defined ways to score points and measure success, but it's really important to recognize all of the dancers in our area for their tremendous levels of talent and perseverance.”

Coach Schultz says success looks different for every team, and although they aren't named state champions every year, she is impressed by what her team can do with very little prior dance experience and a willingness to step out of their comfort zones. 

“We have had a great season and have been inspired by many area teams, and I think we are just all looking forward to another year of dance ahead in 2024-2025,” Schultz said. 

Prescott Cardinals

The Prescott Cardinals took home two banners on Saturday in La Crosse when they won the state championship in Division 3 Jazz dance and came in second in Division 5 Pom.

Anyone familiar with Prescott Cardinals athletic teams knows they are a dynasty in the field of dance and cheer. They have numerous championship titles and runner up awards, and this year was no exception as they won their ironman record of 29 consecutive Middle Border Conference Championships, including taking first in both jazz and pom,

Additionally, Claire Schommer was also given All-Conference honors as an individual. Lucy Lamb and Natalee Huppert were given All-Conference honors for their duet. Evelyn Nance, Alissa Zerneke and MaKenna Williamson earned Second Team All-Conference Trio, and finally, Bianca Gangi, Claire Hince, Makenna Hildebrandt and Daisy Marek earned Second Team All-Conference Small Group.

The Prescott dance team moved from there to the regional championship where they again won for jazz and finished runner up for pom, and in doing so, punched their ticket to the state championship competition. Mackenize Hegland was also named an All-State Finalist in Division 3.

The state competition finished as a microcosm, or macrocosm if you will, of how they’ve finished a number of times in competitions this year, with a first-place finish in jazz and a second place finish in pom, both tremendous accomplishments for what was another fantastic career for this dynastic program.

The coaches did not respond to a request for comment.

Wisconsin Association of Cheer and Pom Coaches, dance, state, Ellsworth Panthers, Prescott Cardinals, Spring Valley Vallettes