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Hartselle Tiger Paws win nationals

Special to the Enquirer  

Five years ago, five dancers had a dream. These dancers wanted a school dance team at Hartselle High School – a dance team through which they could support school athletics and showcase their talents.   

The Hartselle Tiger Paws were formed in 2016 with 10 dancers and two coaches, and the team has been performing and competing ever since.    

The first year of competition was challenging. The team attended state and national competitions that year, and the Tiger Paws learned they had their work cut out for them to compete at that level.   

Since then, the team has worked tirelessly, practicing three to four times a week for up to three hours at a time.  Over the past four years, the team has won numerous regional and state titles, always working toward a national Title.   

In 2019 the team came in second at nationals in the kick category.  

This season was different for the Tiger Paws with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team had tryouts virtually and didn’t have in-person practice until July.   

Summer Dance camp was held locally, and several performances were canceled.  Many times the team performed without some teammates because of quarantine. 

That didn’t stop the heart or drive of this team. The Tiger Paws continued to work hard and prepare for the season, not knowing whether they would be able to compete at all.   

The team competed in three in-person events in January this year: National Dance Alliance Regionals, UDA Magic City state competition and American All-Stars. The team received top honors at all three competitions, winning five first-places finishes, one second-place finish, choreography awards, technical awards and overall sweepstakes winner. 

Then came time for nationals.  

Nationals are typically held in February at Orlando, Fla. The Tiger Paws were unable to travel to Orlando this year because of COVID restrictions, but the NDA announced there would be a Virtual Nationals this year.   

The Tiger Paws performed their competition routines Feb. 1 for the community and recorded the performances. Videos were submitted to the NDA for both preliminary and final rounds of the competition. 

NDA Nationals were held April 17-18, with more than 70 teams competing virtually this year. The Hartselle Tigers Paws were in first place in both kick and pom going into finals.  

April 18, the team gathered at the HHS Auditorium to watch the live stream of the event – and learned they were NDA national champs in both categories.   

Later that evening, the team found out they had been named grand champion of the competition as well, receiving the highest score in their entire division for both performances.  

The 2020-2021 team members are captain Julya McMinemon, Gabi McGuire, Payton Preuitt, co-captain Maggie Guyse, Rachel Lawson, Caroline Phillips, Olivia Counts, Kayleen Coggin, Emma Buckley and Emma Jo Blaxton 

The team is coached by Jenny Faulk and Tisha Bates.