St. Ambrose University’s women’s dance team took first place at the NCA-NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships. It was the university’s first national championship. (Contributed photo)

Contributed photo

St. Ambrose University’s women’s dance team was not going to be denied this year.

Last year at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics large dance national championships, the Bees came in second.

On Friday in Daytona, Fla., they moved from second place into first place at the NCA-NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships and captured the university’s first national championship.

Of the 28 women who make up the team, 17 traveled to the championships and 14 danced in the competition.

 “This whole year has been a work in progress,” the team’s head coach Danelle Stanger said. “We learned our choreography in October and have been working on it ever since. We changed some things around and moved some people around, brought some up from junior varsity and found the right chemistry.”

 Going into the finals Friday, the Bees were in second place by only .02 of a point.

“The girls ended up with their peak performance at the right time,” Stanger said.

Their opponent was fellow Iowa school Grandview College, which was leading by score of 9.09 to 9.07.

After preliminary competition, the team met and looked over the score sheets to see where they could improve and then watched the tape of their performance.

“We realized there were some things we could improve upon, little things that we could change that could make a difference,” Stanger said. “Between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon, we went through three very intense practices.”

It paid off. The Bees came from behind to take the championship.

“You never have an absolutely perfect performance, but you shoot for perfection each time you go out,” Stanger said. “That’s how championships are won.”

Walcott, Iowa, native Katie Arp, 22, a senior finance major who graduated from Davenport Assumption High School, said winning the championship was the team’s goal all year.

“That this was the school’s first national title in anything is a statement in itself,” Arp said. “After last year, being so close, all of us had it in the back of our minds that this year we were going to do it.

The 6 a.m. workouts, weight lifting, circuit training and the distance running all helped to make the women ready for the competition, she said.

“A lot of our score is having stamina and keeping our energy from beginning to end of the two-minute and 15-second program,” Arp said. “The workouts and practices are strenuous.”

During the year, some of the women walked around in the boots that allow stress fractures to heal, she said. “Then they throw it off when it’s time to practice and compete.

“It’s tough, but the payoff is a championship,” Arp said.