It took fourth in region and didn’t even place in the state tournament but the Riverton High School drill team made all that meaningless after blowing away the competition at the Utah Spirit Association Drill Nationals in Anaheim, Calif. March 27 and 28. The team qualified to go to nationals during region and once there, beat out almost 40 other teams.
“They just nailed it this time,” said head coach Belinda Christensen. “There were little, individual mistakes all year and it was always someone different; different girls would fall out of handstands or not quite make a turn. But this time, they did everything right and I don’t even know what made the difference.”
The girls placed first in their division in the military dance category, earning them the opportunity to compete in the finals the next day (March 28). In that round, they placed first again with the same routine that got them nothing at state.
“We were a little worried [coming to California to compete] because the competition is so big and if we didn’t do well, it would be kind of a bad experience for the girls,” Christensen said. “Of course, it turned out to be just the opposite.”
Before they went on stage, Christensen warned the girls not to expect much from the crowd since only eight moms came on the trip with them and there was no guarantee anyone else would cheer them on.
“I told the girls earlier ‘you’re not going to hear the crowd yelling and screaming to pump you up’ because I wanted them to be prepared,” she said. “But the crowd went nuts. Our difficulty for military was way higher than the other teams this year. At one point, they lay down and did this ripple and it was like the crowd had never seen it before. They loved it.”
The crowd cheered the girls straight to the top spot but it didn’t stop there. As the girls were getting their award on one stage, they heard their name being called out on another.
“We were posing for pictures with our award and in the background, we heard our name again,” Christensen said. “We went over and found out we’d won the overall high score for the entire competition.”
After a season full of ups and downs for the team, Christensen is not sure what changed for them at nationals other than hard work and the girls finally deciding they deserved to win.
“They are already feeling so much more confident and that’s what’s been lacking -- that sense that they are good,” she said. “Everybody improved so much and worked so hard. And now the girls next year will know that we have high expectations.”