Tumwater dance coach leads high school team to first national championship win in 22 years


The Tumwater High School Dance Team won its first national championship at the Dance Team Union competition in Florida last month, making it a dream come true for the dancers and coach.

Coach Kim Griffin said it's been a goal of hers to win first place since she began coaching 28 years ago.

The high school's Kick Team placed first out of six teams in the Small Varsity Kick category after advancing straight to the finals with high preliminary results. Griffin said 14 students competed on the team.

Tumwater brought 21 dancers in total to compete in different categories. The school had two junior varsity teams place in the competition, the hip hop group in ninth and the jazz group in 17th. You can review results online.

Griffin said she began coaching the high school team in 1996. It wasn't until a few years into her career that she felt her team was ready to compete on a larger level.

"Washington is such a small corner of the United States, so when you actually go to a place where there's a national championship, you see amazing things, the level of competition is much more rigorous," she said.

She said she took her team to its first statewide competition in 2002, where the Pom team placed second. The school has been competing every other year since. That's 11 attempts before the Tumwater team won its first national title.

Griffin said the kick team came close in 2022, placing fourth nationally.

"It's just work in progress," Griffin said. "And you learn a little bit more each year, and the kids strive a little bit harder. And so it was just a sweet reward to have them get this."

Griffin said a lot went into securing a win this time around, including hiring a new choreographer, changing conditioning and their flexibility plan, and how they warm up.

Griffin said once she found the right person to partner with last summer, the two of them put their heads together to come up with a Kick routine. They settled on a Disco theme and pored over hours of music before coming up with the right mix of "Shake Your Groove Thing," "Don't Leave Me This Way," "Play That Funky Music," "Born to be Alive," and "Baby Let's Dance Tonight."

Then came choreography. Griffin said the Kick team was originally made up of 16 members, but she had to cut two dancers to compete in the small division. That involved restructuring the dance moves and formations, but she said it ended up being better than the original.

The team had to raise money to afford the trip to Florida. Griffin said she has a Booster Club that puts on an annual auction to raise funds for competitions, costumes and other needs. The school was able to send each student for about $400 each, she said. Costumes ended up costing the team $6,000, which was way over budget, Griffin said, but it paid off.

She said the top three teams' scores were so close going into the final that it was clear it would all come down to the last performance.

"Those kids were really focused on making it count in doing what they went there to do," Griffin said. "And so they just pulled out the performance like I've never seen them do. That's what it took, and they won."