University of Minnesota Dance Team shares the secret to success after earning 21st championship in 20 years

MINNEAPOLIS -- If you've been disappointed in the way Minnesota sports teams have performed throughout the years, you're not paying attention to the University of Minnesota Dance Team (UMDT).

The program just took home two national championship titles in Division 1A pom and jazz last weekend, earning the program 21 national titles since 2003.

In those 20 years of winning, UMDT won their pom division for 8 consecutive years, and this year is their 6th time winning a double championship title in both pom and jazz.

"We pushed the limits, we pushed the envelope and that's really what we wanted to do," said Ellie Hebig.

Hebig is one of 6 seniors on the team, who all dreamed up and delivered the perfect ending.

"We've had a unique journey getting here to our senior year, and I think this is just the cherry on top," said Sara Nalli, another senior dancer on the team.

As the seniors set their lasting mark on this program, one of the newest members is breaking the mold. Matthew Greco is a freshman and the first male member of this team.

"It feels a little cool to be the first guy, I won't lie," said Greco.

In this year's winning jazz dance, Greco says choreography was changing up until the final performance.

"It shows how coachable we are. I think we all can adapt really quickly," said Greco.

Tia Tumbleson and Amanda Gaines are the team's coaches, but they were also once team members themselves. Through the years of competing and coaching, they've learned that winning doesn't get old as long as you change the way you win.

"[The jazz dance] was gritty and it was intense, and that was where they were able to push this year," said Tumbleson, "and it paid off because it was really undeniable to watch for sure."

"That is part of the pressure of having that success, you're almost forced to take a risk because you won't continue to be rewarded for doing the same thing," said Gaines.

The Gophers weren't the only dance team from Minnesota to win a championship in their division at nationals in 2023. Also bringing home the gold were the dance teams from the University of St. Thomas, St. Cloud State University, Minnesota State University and, for the first time in the program's history, University of Minnesota-Duluth.

"Minnesota kind of dominated the competition, which I think is so cool," said Gaines.

The six seniors are now preparing for their lives outside of competition, but taking with them the lessons competing gave them.

"Remaining true to yourself and being authentic," said Nalli.

"There's so much more that you have to give and you have to offer beyond winning," said Hebig.

To watch the full routines from UMN, UMD, UST, SCSU and MSU, click here.

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