The members of the Faribault Emeralds dance team spent the week working hard in practice to fine tune their routines ahead of the state dance meet on Friday and Saturday. The Emeralds compete in the jazz competition at 2:30 p.m. Friday and in the kick competition at 3:25 p.m. Saturday. (Jason Hommes/Faribault Daily News)

For the 29th year in a row, the Faribault Emeralds is off to the Minnesota State High School League State Dance Team Tournament, which will be held at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis beginning on Friday.

The Emeralds were one of 12 AA teams to qualify for Friday’s state jazz competition, where they’ll compete against teams from Austin, Proctor/Hermantown, Marshall, Mound Westonka, Orono, Benilde St. Margaret’s, Rocori, Sartell, Simley, St. Cloud Tech and Totino-Grace.

The Emeralds are scheduled to perform their jazz routine at 2:30 p.m. Friday. They’re led by first-year coach Lisa Dahl along with seven seniors who are all eagerly anticipating another trip to Minneapolis’ Target Center.

“I’m really excited to go back to state again this year,” said Lexi Owens, one of the seven senior members of the team. “I think we’re just really excited to show everyone what we have this year as compared to last year. We’re a whole new team with a new coach.”

Lauren Rindahl, another senior, said she’s looking forward to seeing the younger girls to experience the state meet for the first time.

“It’s just a really fun experience, and I’m especially excited for the younger girls to experience it. It’s what we work for all season long, so to finally be getting ready to go is really exciting.”

The Emeralds departed Faribault Thursday, and after Friday’s jazz competition is in the books, they’ll compete at 3:25 p.m. Saturday afternoon in the high kick competition against teams from Austin, Benilde St. Margaret’s, Hutchinson, Mound Westonka, Orono, Rocori, Sartell, Simley, St. Cloud Tech, Totino-Grace and Zimmerman.

“I think we all use state as a motivation throughout the season and being able to compete there is one my favorite memories throughout my years in high school,” said Emma Paquette. “Our goal is to be able to go to state every year, so we’re all really looking forward to it.”

Brynn Whitten is ready for the opportunity to show all the fans and the other teams what the Emeralds are all about.

“At state you have the chance to go up there and just show everyone what you’ve got,” said Whitten. “A lot of the scores have been super close this year at our competitions, and so we’ve been pushing ourselves really hard because we’re here to win.”

At last year’s state competition, the Emeralds placed sixth out of 12 in jazz and finished third (for the third year in a row) in the high kick competition. Faribault had been in first place in the high kick competition after the preliminary round but couldn’t quite hang on for the first-place finish.

The Emeralds last won a state title in 2015 and have made the state finals in high kick every year between Class AA and AAA since the 1990s.

“We’ve got a new coaching staff this year and there are a lot of younger girls on the team as well, so we’ve had some tough practices, but it’s been such a rewarding year because we’ve overcome our challenges and we’ve done well at all of our competitions,” said Madeline Casper. “It’s exciting to see how we’ve improved from competition to competition, and I’m really excited to see how everything comes together at state.”

Added Morgan Rist, “I’m most excited to see if we can achieve our final goal of the season, because we’ve already accomplished all the others.”

Head coach Lisa Dahl was exuberant after the Emeralds took first place in both jazz and kick at the Section 1 Class AA meet Saturday, but the team’s biggest goal is to medal at state in both the jazz and kick competitions.

“In jazz, we want to reach the finals, and from there we hope we can place in the top three and get a medal,” Dahl said. “And for kick we have high hopes that we can place in the top three and earn a medal as well.”

With the bulk of a challenging season now in the rearview mirror, the seniors are looking to go out on a high note.

“Going to state makes it all worth it,” said Alissa Battles. “We’re challenged a lot throughout the year in practices and at competitions, and I’m just excited to see all our hard work pay off and to spend the weekend with everyone.”

Sports reporter Jason Hommes can be reached at 507-333-3119. Follow him on Twitter @FDNjason. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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