Packers shooting for another date at state

Austin dance team coach Kayla Sellers, second from right, leads a recent practice. Assistant coach Sara Alms is also pictured at right.

The Austin dance team has been to the state tournament a record 11 straight times, all with Jen Sims as coach.

That's going to change on Saturday. Not necessarily the string of state tournament appearances, but the Packers will be under the direction of a new coach, Kayla Sellers.

Sims, along with three of her assistants, retired one year ago, shortly after the Packers finished fourth (high kick) at state. She had coached dance for 18 seasons.

Sellers was named new coach in May and is in charge as the Packers look for state tournament appearance No. 12.

The section meet starts at 11 a.m. in the Packers gymnasium with the jazz competition followed by high kick. There are three dance classes in the state — A, AA, AAA — with four sections in each class.


"Pressure? Maybe, but we're going to turn any kind of pressure into excitement,'' Sellers said. "We're all thinking positive thoughts.''

Sellers knows the Austin dance program inside and out.

Starting in the eighth grade, she danced five straight years for the Packers before graduating in 2007. They advanced to the championship round every year except the last when she was a senior.

Sellers, who now works as a paraprofessional in the Austin school district, went to Winona State where she participated in the dance program, and then spent two years as an assistant coach for Winona High School.

"I knew I always wanted to coach, and my dream job would be to coach at Austin,'' she said, "but I never thought that Jen would retire.

"So far this has been a fun, rewarding season.''

There are 41 girls on varsity with 29 dancing junior varsity. Sellers cites the leadership roles from her five senior captains — Madison Wuertz, Erin Dankert, Hannah Bergstrom, Kendra Miller and Tori Simonson — as the key to the success the Packers enjoyed this season.

"They've been nothing but positive all the way through, from the coaching transition to right now,'' Sellers said.


Sellers has two assistant coaches who are both former teammates — Sara Alms and Brittany Symonds. Alms, who has been coaching the Austin JV for three seasons, is two years younger than Sellers, while Symonds is two years older.

Twelve teams compete on Saturday in the section meet with the top three in both high kick and jazz advancing to the state meet next Friday and Saturday at Target Center.

Austin dance team coach Kayla Sellers, left, leads a recent practice.

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