Kris Rydland paused, as she always does before receiving her medal. Her hands in a thanks position.

The Chaska head coach kept telling people before the season this was the team she's been waiting for.

That pause was a reflection on the moment, a third-place finish in Class AAA at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, the first state medal since 2016 for Chaska.

It was a reflection on the season. A conference championship. A 13th straight qualification into the state meet in high kick.

In the end, it wasn't the song. It wasn't the beautiful choreography. It wasn't the costumes. It wasn't the placing at state. It was the girls that Rydland was waiting for.

It was seniors, three that were multi-year captains in Kianne Bouavichith, Carmen Fix and Courtney Rydeen, that took ownership in the team. Held leadership conferences with their teammates every week.

It was 19 returning kick members, a team that came together as one with new members this season.

"These were the girls we needed to have for this strong of a finish. It's hard to keep up with the teams with 3,000-student enrollment. When you have girls like this, you can do it. Their dedication, their drive, they're all around good humans more than anything else," Rydland said.

For Fix, who finished out her five-year run on the dance team with the same white ribbon and third-place medal that she did in 2016 as an eighth grader, this was a season she and her teammates built up to.

Every year's state experience took them to a higher place.

"Everything about this year has been different than any other year. Something about this team that has been unique. Something I've never experienced before," Fix said. "Walking on the floor tonight, we just felt completely confident. There was nothing more we could have done heading into our state performance."

It didn't matter our placing, we had a performance of a lifetime and that is what made tonight so special," she added.

Chaska Dance - Team

The third-place state finishers in high kick for Class AAA from Chaska High School.

Third behind Eastview and Wayzata following the afternoon preliminaries Feb. 15, a half-point in the judges' average away from the defending champion Trojanettes, Chaska saw its finals scores jump two points, an average of 91.37.

Wayzata posting an average of 91.62.

When it came to ranking score, Chaska and Wayzata both had 12. Four judges had Chaska higher, four had Wayzata higher. A tie.

The tie-breaker going to Wayzata as Chaska tied Brainerd on one judge sheet.

Second, third, it all seemed the same to the Chaska team based on their reactions. Pure joy. The expressions on their faces said it all.

"Last year they were amazing leaders but they became stronger this year," Rydland said of the captains. "There was never a point where we had to regroup or come up with a new plan. We just kept going up, up, up. The trust they have in one another and the unity we have as a team. It's truly we do this together, we get better together."

Eastview, shutout from a state title in 2019, swept the jazz and kick competitions, scores in the mid-90s in the finals in kick.

Brainerd, Lakeville North and Prior Lake rounded out the top six kick teams.

For Fix, growing up watching her sister, Greta, win state titles with Chaska. Growing up watching the 2014 and 2015 teams, their leadership, leaving that part of the legacy was much more important to her than medals, or honors.

Leadership, strength, power, across all grades on the team, is what allows Chaska year in and year out to compete with the big schools in Class 3A.

"We just have a lot of trust and love in the teams that are coming ahead. We feel like we've learned from such great leaders before us and we were able to take the team we were given and take them to new places. We feel so comfortable and confident in leaving them next year. We have a really experienced junior class, very experienced junior leaders, that will do amazing things.

"We hope the example we've set these past few years will carry them on to great things," Fix added.

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