Switched Scores: Drill Team 2017


Holly Frigon and Hazel McLain

Hands clasped and head bowed, senior Gretchen Crum sits on stage at awards with her teammates and drumline surrounding her. They awaited their names to be called as the first place winners of nationals due to their innovative hip-hop routine with drumline. “In third place with 89 points…Shawnee Mission East!” They glance to each other in confusion, wondering if it had been a mistake. 

This year, the nationals competition implemented stricter rules about the music that teams would be performing to. Competitors were no longer allowed to edit their songs unless a $600 fee was paid in order to receive a pre-edited track that would be a different style. The Lancer Dancers were at a loss until they came up with the drumline theme that fit all the new regulations, and yet they were still penalized for it.

Walking off stage from her last Nationals competition, Crum struggled to keep a positive attitude after the let down. While the exact reason the judges had changed their minds was unclear, the dancers believed it was because of the complaints from other teams. The teams thought it was unfair that East brought live music, even if it didn’t break any of the new guidelines.

After the girls found out their preliminary competition score, the hotel room was filled with smiles and excitement, ready for the second day of nationals, the real competition. They knew their score, 92.97, would only go up from the day before. Practicing, the dancers made small changes leading up to the performance. Later, when the scores were announced, that atmosphere was crushed. 

Their dance hadn’t violated any of the new rules, and yet their competition score was almost three points lower than their preliminary score, something that had never happened before.

“We would have been happy with third if that’s what we got in [preliminary],” Crum said. “Since we were on top of the moon that we were in first and so far ahead of everyone else, it was sort of a let down.”

Nothing mattered. Not the two weeks of 6:45 a.m. practices or the endless rehearsals, cleaning every move as they went. Or that the judges liked the way drumline was integrated into the routine, drumming on the floor with the girls during the preliminary competition. All that mattered was the fact that the night before the final competition, the judges changed their mind. And the dream of winning the NDA first place trophy had slipped out of their hands once again.

“Even though we didn’t win, I think it’s just going to push us harder in future years although I may not be there to see it,” senior co-captain Hayley Bell said. 

While bringing drumline for their performance meant losing points, the team would have done it again. After the loss, the girls were even more motivated to reach the nationals stage once more. 

“If you could just get rid of that moment of sadness, then it was my favorite trip ever to nationals,” coach Alexis ‘Bubba’ Close said. “We all took that risk and we all took it together.”