by Dennis Dalman
(Editor’s note: This story is being published two weeks after the event because the awards night took place June 21, the day after the Newsleader deadline for that week. The next week the Newsleader office was closed for staff vacations and so there was no newspaper published June 30.)
Kelly McCarney, head coach of the Sartell Sabre Dance Team, has received many honors for her work, but each time she is overwhelmed with gratitude and pride in her award-winning dancers.
On the night of June 21, she was named Coach of the Year at the second annual St. Cloud Times Media Sports Awards banquet at Escher Auditorium on the campus of the College of St. Benedict. One of the Sabre team’s dancers, Sloan Schwarzentraub, was honored as Dancer of the Year. What’s more, the Sabre Dance Team was one of the three finalists in competition for Team of the Year, along with the Holdingford Track Team and the Tech High School Boys’ Baseball Team. The latter team won the award.
The Times Media event honors the best of the athletes in high schools throughout central Minnesota. The banquet was a big night for Sartell, with six individuals winning awards in various categories, along with a recipient of the Tom Bearson Spirit Award (see related story).
The guest of honor at the banquet was Adam Thielen, wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.
“I was very honored (to receive that award),” said McCarney in an interview with the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader. “It was a huge honor to receive it when I think of all the great coaches there are in central Minnesota.”
McCarney was also thrilled that Schwarzentraub was honored.
“We are so proud of Sloan,” she said. “She was one of our captains last season, and she is such an excellent dancer. She is so appreciative, so coachable, so helpful. And she gave an acceptance speech with such poise and confidence.”
Schwarzentraub will dance at Mankato State University this fall.
For the second consecutive year, the Times Media Sports Awards event honored as top dancer a member of the Sartell Sabre Dance Team. Last year, the recipient was Hannah Wohletz.
“I think those awards speak to the strength of our dance program overall,” McCarney said.
The Sartell Sabre Dance Team has just completed its 15th season, and McCarney has been its head coach from the beginning – 2002. Since then, the team has taken home a total of 10 medals from state tournaments in the high-kick and jazz categories combined. In addition, the team was state champion three times, winning both in high-kick and jazz in 2001, 2015 and 2017.
McCarney has twice been named Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Dance Teams, under the aegis of the Minnesota Coaches’ Association. She was honored with that prestigious award in 2008 and 2011.
Needless to say, McCarney leads a very busy life as a wife and mother of two, a dance coach and a full-time registered nurse in the surgical department of the St. Cloud Hospital.
“My coaching is a labor of love,” she said. “It’s hard work, but I have the full support of my husband and two kids. They love coming to watch the dance competitions.”
McCarney said she is also energized by the incredibly hard work and dedication of her dancers, as well as the team’s three assistant coaches – Molly Carey, Kelsey Keller and Cathie Reiman.
Even though the season is over, the Sabre dancers (30 young women) are already practicing this summer for next season.
McCarney was raised in St. Augusta. During her years at St. Cloud Tech High School, she danced as a member of the Tigerettes. Later, she taught dance camps and clinics throughout Minnesota for the Just for Kix program. All of her own expertise in dancing and her teaching skills she brought to bear when she began coaching the Sartell Sabre dancers during the past 15 years of crowd-pleasing and award-winning performances.
McCarney’s husband, Nick, told the Newsleader he is so proud his wife was honored at the banquet.
“Lots of coaches go unrecognized,” he said. “So much work goes on behind the scenes by coaches that the public never sees. Kelly is on the phone constantly, doing emails, working with music and dance costumes, helping with fundraising, helping with the booster club. It takes a lot of sacrifice; she lives her job.”
The McCarneys have two children – Reese, 5, who is already in her fourth year of dance; and Tyler, 2.
Nick is an operations manager for Concrete Inc. of St. Cloud.