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Dancers bring home a first-place title from the USA Dance Nationals held March 31 in Anaheim, California

In a first for dance history at Milwaukie High School, the Pony Prancers brought home a first-place title from the USA Dance Nationals held March 31 in Anaheim, California.

PHOTO COURTESY: MONA MCCARTHY - Celebrating the historic win are Milo Julalak Klangmanee (back row, from left), Brenna Weiler, Leeah McCarthy, Isabelle Cachero, Victoria Gerber, Katie Hall and Savanna Beiswanger. In the front row, from left, are seniors Ocean Benz, Tessa Reiter, Stevie Schloth, Naomi Tubbs and Marissa Kelly. Not pictured: Aspen Backenstos, Caitlynne Fincher, Claudia Finerty, Millaray Castillo and Violet Rodriquez.In addition to MHS students, the Pony Prancers feature two students from Clackamas Middle College this year.

Before embarking on this trip, team members knew they would come home winners regardless of their placing, winners for their work ethic and perseverance. In March, they took second place in 5A finals of the state dance SUBMITTED PHOTO - Pony Prancer assistant coaches Jonathan Sanford and Basha Rei join Head Coach Ryan Sanford in celebrating the first-place trophy. Rei and Sanford are MHS Pony Prancer alumni.championship.

Passion of team coaches Ryan Sanford, Jonathan Sanford and Basha Rei was key to the Pony Prancer accomplishments, said proud parent Mona McCarthy.

"The growth of this team has always been to create a culture that nurtures individual success and fun," McCarthy said. "Ryan, Jon and Basha demonstrate passion for dance; they see the potential in each dancer, their creativity, their encouragement and the confidence they display in our dancers."

The Sanfords donated their coaching pay for the year to cover the airfare cost to get the team to nationals. Rei covered a lot of the food expenses to make sure students were well fed and could focus on having fun.

"They believed that their investment in these girls was worth it by giving them an experience of a lifetime as well as being able to see some of the top dancers in the nation," McCarthy said. "They were excited to compete but didn't walk in thinking we would bring home a national title. The sacrifices they've made for our team always seem to be worth it."

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