Seventh Heaven: Vail Christian dance team team wins seventh straight state title |

Seventh Heaven: Vail Christian dance team team wins seventh straight state title

Vail Christian High School's dance team won their seventh straight 2A pom title Saturday in Denver.
Ryan Casey/ |

EDWARDS — In the Bible, the number seven represents perfection, and during Saturday, Dec. 9’s state championships, Vail Christian High School’s dance team piled up all sorts of perfect sevens.

• Lucky number seven

• Seven girls on team

• They performed seventh.

• They were seventh in parade of champions.

• They won their seventh straight state title.

Coach Patti Carlson has a state title for each year she has been at the helm. Coach Aili Thomas has choreographed the past four state titles.

“Aili and I work very well together, complementing each other with our different skills,” Patti Carlson said. “Her choreography is fabulous, as she fine tunes all the little details up to the last minute — leading to our success.”

Sister Act

“Our school is small, so it feels like a family,” Patti Carlson said. “We’ve had so many sisters on our team. It’s family support.”

Patti Carlson’s daughter, Isabelle, is team captain for the state champions, as were Isabelle’s sisters before her, Caroline and Allison.

For Vail Christian’s dance team, sisters are as familiar as state titles. Along with the Carlson clan, Jessica and Izzy Richie, McKenzie and Larkin Smith, Rachel and Katie Keith and Generose and Elizabeth Angarola all danced on the team.

“I have watched the Vail Christian dance team win every one of its titles, before I was even on the team,” Isabelle Carlson said. “Seeing the progression of the competition every year and how the team has risen to the occasion with each new challenge is truly inspiring.”

Just because they’ve been fortunate enough to win seven straight years does not mean it gets easier. Only two of the seven had ever performed in a state competition.

“Seeing a team of girls in which only two had competed before at states come together to win yet another state title is really a testament to our team’s amazing coaching, teamwork and choreography,” Isabelle Carlson said.

Everyone does everything, well

Vail Christian is a few hundred souls, and everyone does everything. The dance/pom team members are in drama, academic decathlon, student council, National Honor Society, Steadman science competition … the list is long and distinguished.

“They are leaders who work well as a team,” Patti Carlson said.

The championship win puts the Saints in a tie for the eighth-most spirit titles in state history. Vail Christian topped second-place Sanford for its seventh state title.

“The most important thing to dance team is the sisterhood that we have formed. Winning has been an amazing experience, but the journey to get through it with all of these girls has had such a huge impact on my life,” said Camille Chicoine, cheer captain. “Winning seven times straight is pretty unheard of for these competitions. To bring this trophy home to VCHS is such an honor, and our team couldn’t be more proud.”

Dancing dynasty

The VCHS dance team is any number of things, but as much as anything, it’s a dynasty.

Like anything else, dynasties are work.

The season runs from August to December, learning a new dance for every football, basketball and volleyball game. When fall sports finish, they spend a month or so on the dance they’ll perform at the state finals.

They pick the music first. It needs to be something they want to listen to because they’re going to hear it for hours every day. Thomas adds the choreography, and away they go.

Performances last just less than two minutes.

“There are no words to describe the feeling when you are standing on the floor, waiting for the music to start, with a coliseum full of people watching you. No matter how much you practice, that is the time you feel the adrenaline, excitement and energy flowing through your blood. And, when its all over, that team hug is when you realize how grateful you are to be on the VCHS Dance team,” said Jasmine Hartman-Budnik, junior captain.

“Now that I am a junior, I can really see how our victory at states is so much more than dancing. I am so proud of my team for working so hard to do their very best, and I am so proud of our coaches for pouring their energy and time into making this team as amazing as it is now.”

The VCHS dance team was started in 2004 by former VCHS students Jessica Nevin Kottwitz, Rachel Sibley and Caitlyn Mutter.

Winning is good, Patti Carlson said, but there’s one thing better.

“The best part is watching these girls grow into young women,” she said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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