The Prior Lake dance team is looking to remain one on the state'e elite programs.
The Lakers have qualified for state the last two seasons, finishing fifth in jazz funk and eighth in high kick in the Class AAA competition last winter.
Prior Lake graduated 11 seniors from last year's squad, so there will be some new faces this winter. But Lakers Coach Christi Falkenberg has built a strong program over the years, so don't expect much of a drop off.
"Our hopes and goals are to continue to build our program by building off the strengths we already have and by pushing our boundaries," Falkenberg said. "We are focusing a lot on the mental aspect of our sport and how we can prepare ourselves as a team and as an individual for competition.
Prior Lake's captains this season are seniors Kristin Kay, Anna O'Connell, Heather Rothenberger and Julia Wieskus.
Other returning varsity members are Hope Phan, Sydney Pahl, Gabriella Elster, Lacey Letourneau and Rachel Slates; juniors Ava Burandt, Georgia Collignon and Molly Hovick; and sophomores Julia O'Connell and Ali Arnold.
Newcomers to the varsity team are juniors Grace Chapman, Lexi Grieves, Sammie Saucedo, Ella Myers and Aly Anderson; sophomores Brooke Somerville, Jenna Fuechtmann and Leah Christensen; and ninth-graders Bryn Bartlett, Cassidy Manor, Ellie Laurienzo and Faith Jung.
"Our biggest strength is how close the team is," Falkenberg said. "Dancers trust the coaches, and coaches trust the dancers. We are all committed to giving our best at every practice."
The Lakers will open the South Suburban Conference season Nov. 26 in a jazz meet at Eastview at 7 p.m. The second jazz competition is Dec. 10 at Burnsville.
The two SSC high kick meets are Dec. 3 and Dec. 17 at Apple Valley and Eagan respectively.
The SSC Championships are set for Dec. 21 at Eastivew starting at 11 a.m. Last year, the Lakers were runner-up to Eastview in both conference dances.
The Section 1AAA competition is slated for Feb. 8 at Bloomington Kennedy. The top three teams in each dance make the state field. Eastview, Lakeville North and Prior Lake were the three state qualifiers in both jazz and high kick from the section last year.
Prior Lake was the section runner-up in jazz and third in high kick.
The Lakers have been strong in jazz for a while. The team has made state seven straight years and have been in the finals (top six) at state the last four seasons. Prior Lake's best finish is fifth, which it also achieved in 2017.
Prior Lake was sixth at state in both 2018 and 2016, 10th in both 2014 and 2015, and 11th in 2013.
Prior Lake was sixth in high kick in 2018 during the program's first-ever state appearance in that dance.
This year's state competition is set for Feb. 14-15 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Jazz if the first day, and high kick is the second.
Wayzata is the defending champion in both high kick and jazz.