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'It feels like a dream:' Detroit Lakes jazz team clinches state berth for the first time since 2010

The Detroit Lakes jazz team beat out Rocori for the third and final jazz spot at the state tournament out of Section 4-2A.

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Detroit Lakes head dance coach Britton Ramsey, left, and Tori LaFriniere cry tears of joys after finding out the Laker jazz team is headed to the state tournament for the first time since 2010. The Lakers took third at Sauk Rapids-High School on Feb. 5, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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SAUK RAPIDS – Detroit Lakes senior Tori LaFriniere barely let the public address announcer at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School pronounce a "D" before she burst into tears. It was the first time in 12 years since the Lakers had their name called at a section dance tournament.

With a third-place finish, the Detroit Lakes jazz team is headed to the Target Center as one of the three teams representing Section 4-2A.

"My heart dropped to my stomach as soon as I heard our name," LaFriniere said. "Tears just started rolling down my face. It's just the most exciting feeling, and we worked for it all year. We knew we had a better chance this year than any other year. We just really felt like this was our time."

The Lakers performed to Demi Lovato's "Anyone," with the goal of conveying a strong message surrounding mental health awareness. Many girls looked like they were on the verge of tears during their most important routine of the season.

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The Detroit Lakes jazz team celebrates a third-place finish and a state berth at the Section 4-2A meet on Feb. 5, 2022 at Sauk Rapids-High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"The girls were super emotional walking onto the floor," Detroit Lakes head coach Britton Ramsey said. "They had a classmate who took her life a few years ago. The song that the team danced to before us played at her funeral. They had to listen to that song because we were on deck. Everyone was so emotional, but I told them that this is the message they're sending with their dance. They used that emotion to tell the story today."

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After the song's final note played, Ramsey hugged her assistant coach Haley Brower. Even though the award show was more than two hours away, they felt like they had just punched their tickets to Minneapolis.

"We felt like that was everything we ever wanted from this group," Ramsey said. "They gave us everything we asked for, and I had a feeling that it was going to be enough to get there. Once we got in the hallways, we told them that we were so proud of them even if we took last place. They did everything we asked them to do, and they nailed it."

Despite finishing in the top three in almost every regular-season event, the Lakers saw their turning point come on Jan. 16 in Foley when they hit the highest score in program history. That's when they realized they had a real shot at making it to state.

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The Detroit Lakes jazz team competed at the Section 4-A meet at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School on Feb. 5, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Tribune

"We knew we had to come in and try our hardest to beat a couple of teams we were neck-and-neck with," Lafriniere said. "We pulled it off. This is a really special group of girls."

The Lakers' heavy performance was enough to beat out Rocori. Detroit Lakes finished with a team score of 543 and a placement score of 16.5, which was better than the Spartans' 534 and 19. Becker took second, while Sauk Rapids-Rice took first. The Storm also won the high-kick competition, with Rocori and Becker rounding out the podium.

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The Detroit Lakes jazz team celebrates a third-place finish and a state berth at the Section 4-2A meet on Feb. 5, 2022 at Sauk Rapids-High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Many Lakers have attended the state dance tournament before but haven't stepped foot on the floor at the Target Center. That's where Brower provided her experience.

"I'm just so proud of these girls," Brower said. "We've been talking all year long about getting to state and what dancing on that state floor is like. Because I've been able to do that myself, I've been able to tell them how incredible it is, which doesn't do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself. For these girls to get the chance to do that and spread their message is super important. For how hard they work and how important their message is, and to be able to reach more people, is huge."

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Detroit Lakes head dance team coach Britton Ramsey, left, and assistant coach Haley Brower smile after the Lakers performed their jazz routine at the Section 4-2A dance meet on Feb. 5, 2022 at Saul Rapids-Rice High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Ramsey has coached the Lakers for 11 years, and each season has been a step towards this goal. She was elated to see several dance team alumni witness the Lakers clinch the first state berth since 2010.

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"It's just a surreal feeling that hasn't hit me yet," Ramsey said. "As much as you hope and you plan for this to happen, it still doesn't hit you right away. It's been a long time coming. There's been a lot of work over many years from a lot of girls to make this happen. We had a lot of alumni here today. Each of those teams got us one step closer. This doesn't happen overnight. We've had some really good leaders, and the girls from this year have only known good leadership."

Postseason performances are all about peaking at the right time. LaFriniere believes the Lakers put their best foot forward at the meet that matters most.

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The Detroit Lakes jazz team competed at the Section 4-A meet at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School on Feb. 5, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"This was our best one of the season," LaFriniere said. "We didn't know if that was going to be our last performance or not. We all broke down and talked about how thankful we are for each other. We've always gone down to watch state dance before, but we've never competed. Now we get to, and I can't explain what this feeling is like."

On Feb. 18, the Detroit Lakes jazz team will take the floor one last time. It's part of a series of moments Ramsey has envisioned for this program since she took over in 2011.

"It doesn't feel real. It feels like a dream," Ramsey said. "I've pictured this 100 times, and that doesn't compare to the real thing. It's just so surreal. These girls are so competitive. We've had some hard-working groups, but these kids are competitive, gritty and will do what it takes. They all kind of have that attitude. They have the attitude to show up and say, 'This is our year.'"

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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