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Sandy Journal

Jordan competes at state finals after winning first region drill title—perhaps ever

Mar 09, 2023 10:08AM ● By Julie Slama

Jordan High’s drill team, the Charlonians, won its region title on their home floor. (Photo courtesy of Josh Wood)

Competing in the state finals was icing on the cake for Jordan High’s drill team, the Charlonians.

The season started with difficulty. When one teammate suffered a season-ending injury—a torn ACL—the night before their first competition in December at Herriman, the squad worked together to not only rewrite portions of all three competition pieces, but to rehearse them to perform the next day. 

On top of it, several teammates were sick, with flu-like symptoms and bronchitis.

“It was pretty stressful, but we ended up getting sixth overall that competition which we’re pretty proud of after doing everything that we did the night before,” said third-year head coach Lauren James. 

The Charlonians accepted their result, but still had dreams of finishing first in a routine at one of the two competitions.

With only a couple practices after winter break, the team competed at a Bountiful invitational and took fifth place.

“We were really excited when we went on the floor,” said four-year member and one of the captains, Taylor Perry, who started dancing at age 4. “We had a few fumbles, but we felt really good about our routines.”

The final invitational was at Alta High, where the Charlonians took third place.

“We were into it. Our military routine was amazing; our coaches cried after because it was so good. Military is a different form of dance, and it’s very technical. It’s not like the dance routine where you have to have a lot of control and flexibility and strength,” she said. “At Alta, which was our last comp (etition before region), we struggled a little bit in dance, and in the show, we ended up third. The past three years, our team really has improved our routines and have been placing higher.”

James said their third-place finish was the highest overall placement the team has earned in four years.

“We also knew by finishing in the top five, we were going straight to state semis. So, we were already on cloud nine when we competed at region which was four days later,” she said.

Still, the team hadn’t met their goal of winning a category. They also wanted to win region. So, they worked on perfecting their routines.  

“We’ve never had a team like this before in my four years,” Perry said. “We’re really close. We all are putting everything into it. We may not get along every moment of every day, but any of us would drop anything to help each other. We trust each other and support each other and people see that when we walk on the floor.”

At region, they entered their gym to find it decorated.

“Our parents were so sweet; they blew up literally like 700 balloons and we had a good turnout of people, which was nice. We gave all the teams big bouquets of flowers; we’re a small region and are all pretty close. It was a fun experience to dance on our own floor where we practice every single morning, knowing how to turn and be in our formations,” she said.

Perry said they hit their routines.

“When we walked off the floor, we just screamed because we’re so happy. It’s a good feeling because we knew we did well; actually, we killed it. Normally, we get that feeling with one routine, but this time, it was with all three of our routines,” she said.  

The team claimed its goal of winning military and dance categories as well as the region title.

“It was amazing winning first place in two routines and winning region in the same competition,” she said. “We were so excited and pumped.”

James agrees: “We had really come together, and the girls bonded. You could really see it on the floor at region; they performed the best they have ever done. They were happy when they got first in military, knowing they had met their goal (of winning a category). Then they called us first place for dance, we lost it even more because we knew we had a chance to win region at that point. When we won, it was icing on the cake. The girls were just elated, and it meant a lot.”

She credits the unity to her three captains.

“The captains really have brought all the girls, all the newbies, under their wing and have stayed positive. They’ve got just the best with work ethic. They know if something didn’t happen, they don’t just say ‘whatever, it’s fine.’ They work together and talk about how to make it work next time. They don’t blame anyone for something not happening. We had a team of girls that love each other and want the best for everyone. As a coach, that’s all we could ask for.”

Perry, who also is a National Honors society officer and a member of the school softball team, said the team believes they’re the first Jordan Charlonians to win region in the school’s 100-plus year history. 

While no official school records have been kept, teammates paged through yearbooks trying to find another team that took the title. Perry said that some years, the team won state or individual titles, or competed when a region wasn’t formed, but without a written history or evidence of it in the yearbooks, the girls are celebrating it as a first.

The Charlonians’ screaming and crying didn’t end at region. After performing some of their best routines at state preliminaries, their coach returned to the arena later in the afternoon to Facetime her team back at Jordan High. Virtually, the squad learned they secured a wildcard spot—the highest place from semifinals that wasn’t in the top two in the morning pods—for the state finals. The team erupted in cheers in a school hallway.

At state finals, Jordan parents and fans filled a section at Utah Valley University’s arena. When it came time for their final performance of the show category, the crowd put on their bunny ears in support of the team’s routine of “Peter Rabbit.” Even Jordan High principal Bruce Eschler donned his ears.

“It’s been a great year for drill,” he said. “They’ve been growing over the last few years and have consistently been able to just improve. It’s been fun to see.”

James said the “Peter Rabbit” routine is their hardest.

“They do so many jumps and are basically running around the floor the whole routine. At the beginning of the year before for competition, one of the parents said Chinese New Year this year is the year of the rabbit and the girls were behind it, saying ‘it’s the year of the rabbit; it’s our year.’ All season, they really took a hold of that and turned everything around. At state, you could see they really gave that last performance everything they had,” she said.

Their official theme, “Our time is now” was fitting, especially for the 10 seniors who will graduate this spring.

“We, the captains, picked our theme over the summer. We knew we had the strongest team we’ve had in a few years and knew we could be good,” Perry said. “We’ve performed at assemblies and halftimes and when we compete, it’s the best feeling to be on the floor with your teammates knowing you’re doing your best. We just have our showcase left, then basically, all our years of high school drill is over. I’m glad we won region, and we’re exhausted from the season, but it’s still bittersweet it’s coming to an end.”