The numbers of the Lakeland Union High School varsity dance team might be small, but that didn’t stop them from accomplishing something special mid-March.
On March 20, the Lakeland dance team — comprised of senior Victoria Haling, sophomores Ella Nelson, Alexandra Farmer and Francesca Baker — placed first in the Division 2-Virtual Jazz and second in Division 3-Virtual Pom at the WACPC (Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Pom Coaches) Regional Championships which earned them two spots at the WACPC State Championships.
It’s the second time Haling has qualified for state (she went her freshman year) and first for Nelson, Farmer and Baker.
“I’m very excited for this team to make it to state because in the midst of a pandemic, they’re presented with challenges that other teams have not been presented,” coach Holly Schmitz said. “All of them have done it with grace and drive and it’s been very impressive to watch. I couldn’t be more excited for them.”
Teams had their choice to compete live in-person or submit a video of their routine at regionals. Lakeland chose to do it virtually.
“I think that this year they worked really hard with the choreography and anytime that they had a challenge, they just worked even harder so I truly think, whether virtual or in-person, they would’ve qualified,” Schmitz said. 
Some of the categories teams can do routines from include pom, jazz, hip-hop or kick. Teams have the choice to do two routines. The Lakeland dance team will compete in both jazz and pom against other teams from the state of Wisconsin. 
“In the pom style, they are holding pom poms in their hands and their (most) difficult section is in synchronization … dancing in unison, making the same motions and more hard-hitting style with a lot of lines with their arms and legs,” Schmitz said. “The jazz style is more technical. The judges pay attention to technical dancing with pirouettes and leaps and all sorts of different aspects. It’s definitely slower and can be more serious. It can be more sadder, emotional routines.”
“To do both routines (at state), teams must qualify for both routines,” Schmitz said. “In 2018, we went to state and qualified for one of our routines. Pretty cool to do both this year.”
Fourteen teams will compete in the Division 2 Jazz category and 13 teams in the Division 3 Pom category at state. 
“I know in the last few years, New Berlin Eisenhower and Waupaca are high up in our division,” Schmitz said.
In addition to the team competition, Nelson, Haling and Baker entered in solo routines for a chance to be named a Division 2 All-State dancer.
“The girls choreograph their own routine and we submit that via video and that gets judged separately. If the girls have a high enough score, they are chosen for the All-State team, just like in any sport,” Schmitz said. “It’s unique in the sense that the girls are responsible for choreographing it and competing against girls all over the state.”
The All-State team will be announced on April 25. 
The last time the Lakeland Dance Team made it to state came in 2018 when they competed in the Division 2 Kick category.
The state meet will take place April 25 and this year it will be a bit different. It will be held virtually due to COVID-19.
“Every team that qualified has to submit a virtual video that they pre-recorded,” Schmitz said. “Regionals was optional …. We chose the virtual route which presented its own challenges not to perform in front of a live crowd. Now, it’s more of an even playing field with everyone submitting virtually.”
Just having the four girls can present difficulties in a routine, but the positives outweigh them all.
“They truly have bonded and become like sisters and have each other’s back and spend so much time together and develop those relationships,” Schmitz said.
The Lakeland dance team will continue to work hard to see if they can bring home a state championship.
“(Dance) is a sport that requires strength, attention to detail and stamina that they deserve credit for,” Schmitz said. “They are true athletes.”
Brett LaBore may be reached at brett@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.