By Jake Calhoun
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - The New Ulm Cathedral Sonics Dance Team will put its young talent to the test for the 2013-14 season.
Front Row (l-r): Lexi Grathwohl, Jessica Meyer (JV Jazz Captain), McKenna Mages (Captain), Ashley Nicklay (JV Jazz Captain), Grace Gillis, Emily Eckstrand. Second row (l-r): April Atzenhoefer, Kendra Kormann, Emily Schotzko, Jill Griebel, Ashlyn Berg. Third row (l-r): Assistant Coach Heidi Schwab, Elle Osborne, Hannah Friendshuh, Mary Herzog, Emily Kienlen, Karlie Gieseke, Kristina Long, Liza Dittrich, Head Coach Missy Marti, Not Pictured: Catherine Miller (Captain).
Of the 19 dancers on this year's team, 16 are underclassmen - five of whom are on the varsity jazz team.
However, youth is not synonymous with inexperience for this team.
"They're young, but they're talented," said Cathedral coach Missy Marti. "A lot of them are returning members and we have three new members, so the talent from last year that we groomed is still on the team."
Marti said there has not been a lot of going back to basics with her students.
"We've just jumped in and hit the ground running," Marti said. "I can tell you from just the first couple weeks of practice just watching them learn the routines, they seem to be further ahead of schedule than last year just because we have so many returning members."
Juniors McKenna Mages and Catherine Miller are the varsity captains and the sole upperclassmen on the varsity jazz team. Sophomore Lexi Grathwohl, freshman Emily Schotzko and eighth-graders Liza Dittrich, Hannah Friendshuh and Gabrielle Osborne are the other members of the varsity jazz team.
This is also the first year the Sonics will have a junior varsity jazz team, which is co-captained by junior Ashley Nicklay and sophomore Jessica Meyer.
The team's season begins Dec. 3 and runs until mid-February. It will have its home quad meet on Dec. 7.
Down numbers force first-year New Ulm coach to adjust
Akin to Cathedral's makeup, the New Ulm High School dance team will have a youthful roster consisting of girls in grades 7-10.
However, New Ulm has 10 dancers on its roster, which includes captains Cora Augustin and Jessica Helget. First-year coach Rachel Oftedahl said she had more girls on her team when practices began, but some quit for various reasons.
This change in numbers has affected the team's routines.
"If a dancer is assigned a spot in a formation, it is their spot. If the number of dancers change, this changes the overall look of the dance," Oftedahl said. "We can't sub people in during performances like other sports such as basketball and football."
Oftedahl said her girls are picking up the changes in the routines fairly quickly, but the fluidity of the season so far has kept things interesting.
"There is always something new to learn, or a more-effective way of doing something is found," Oftedahl said.
Oftedahl said her team's goal is to start off with average scores with hopes of seeing them improve on a weekly basis.
The team will perform at halftime of the New Ulm boy's basketball game against Blue Earth Area on Dec. 6 before opening its competitive season at New Ulm Cathedral's quadrangular on Dec. 7.