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Dakota Ridge repeats at state

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The Eagles save their best for last en route to a second straight 4A/5A co-ed cheer championship

By Michael Hicks

DENVER — Winning is never much in the conversation for the Dakota Ridge cheer team.
Jon Baran, the school’s cheer coach, said because of the way his team runs practice and how the team is coached, team members just worry about executing and doing their best.
“With that philosophy and mentality, they do a great job as you can see,” Baran said.
The proof was a second straight 4A/5A co-ed cheer championship. Dakota Ridge pulled off its back-to-back title by holding off second-place Mountain Vista on Dec. 6 at the Denver Coliseum. Last year, the Eagles topped Ralston Valley to win state.
“I was so proud of them. They did everything I asked them to do. I asked them to go out there and give me 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the best routine they’ve ever done. That’s what they did,” said second-year coach Baran, who has the team’s motto TIIFF carved out in the back of his crew-cut.
He wasn’t at liberty to spill what it meant, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it works for Dakota Ridge.
“The team has been successful because we believe that we are champions. We may have the same skills as every other team out there, but we put a lot of heart into what we do, and we have an amazing coach,” senior Josie Stone said.
Dakota Ridge led Mountain Vista by 4.3 points after the preliminaries and didn’t slow up in the finals. As a matter of fact, its state-winning performance was spot on, senior Gianna DeGrado said.
“I think it’s the best in Dakota history. We left it all on the mat. I don’t have any regrets,” she said.
The Eagles didn’t know what the point differential was after the prelims. All they knew was that they were in the lead and that they had to focus on the task at hand.
Dakota Ridge started working on its state championship routine in late August, early September, Baran said. The Eagles kept working on it, making small changes here and there to tweak it before going to state. It was nearly flawless when it counted. Maybe that’s because Dakota Ridge approached the finals with a laid-back attitude.
“I think that was crucial. I tell them to don’t put any pressure on themselves; just have fun together. The more unrelaxed you are, the harder it’s going to be,” Baran said.
Dakota Ridge had no worries. It saved its best for last.
“You believe in what you’re doing,” Stone said. “With us, (Baran) has always told us to go out there and do our best. Our best happened to be the best.”
In 2012, Dakota Ridge’s motto was “No expectations.” It went out and won state. In 2013, with 10 returning performers and 12 first-timers, the Eagles knew what Baran’s expectations were, and they made state a reality once again.

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Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.