By Tim Leeds
A program that has grown to include three-quarters of the girls at Blue Sky High School will show its stuff during halftime of the championship game at the District 9-C Boys Basketball Tournament in Havre.
Girls on the 23-member team said the purpose of Saturday's performance is to fire up the crowd. But it gets the team just as fired up.
"I really like to dance, so when we go out there to perform it's fun," said Mary Hauser, a Blue Sky senior. "It gets everybody pumped for the game, gets everybody excited."
Coach Tiffany Rettig revived the Blue Sky Drill Team, recruiting 12 members from the seventh- and eighth-grade classes.
"It has just grown in numbers every year," she said.
Rettig said the girls have given up part of almost every lunch hour for the last three months to practice their routines, which they choreograph themselves.
"There's a lot of time and commitment on their part," she said.
The team seems to believe it's worth it.
"It's fun to perform in front of people and to make up the drill team as you go along and hang out with all the girls," senior Cassidy Han said.
Shilo Burkhartsmeyer, added, "It gives us a chance to show a different side on the ball floor instead of just sports. It's a creative outlet for some of us."
She said it also gives the members something in common outside of their other activities.
Burkhartsmeyer, Cassidy and Han have been on the team since it was assembled four years ago, joining as eighth-graders.
Rettig keeps the program running as smoothly as she can, makes sure the uniforms are ready, makes sure the girls are ready for performances, and supervises the practices for safety and to ensure the girls' timing and step counting is correct. Which is not always the easiest thing to do.
"Twenty-three girls is a lot of different ideas going at once," Rettig said.
The team's program includes dance steps, pyramids and jumping stunts. The three seniors said they get ideas for the program from TV, movies, videos, anywhere they can.
"Everything we can think of," Burkhartsmeyer said, "everything we think would look good."
In its first year, the revived drill team performed at the Northern C Divisional Tournament, but Rettig said it usually just performs at halftime of boys basketball games at Blue Sky. It's impossible to do much more because of scheduling conflicts. Some of the girls on the drill team also play basketball and volleyball.
"When you're in a small school it's a lot of juggling schedules to get everybody involved," she said.
Rettig said having drill teams is an old tradition in Montana schools, but although the new Blue Sky team is even bigger than it was when she was in school there, not many other schools have programs.
"Drill teams when I was in high school was a big deal," she said. "You fought (to perform in) halftime shows."
The idea to revive the team at Blue Sky came from the students.
"The students are the ones who came to me and asked, I know you did this in the past. Could you work with us and get something going?'" Rettig said. " Since I had done it and loved it, I couldn't say no."
The team is bigger now than when Rettig performed on it. The 23 members compare with an average of 15 to 20 in the mid-1980s, even though the student body population, about 65, is smaller than it was then.
And the seniors think the program will just keep going. It has members of all four classes of the high school on it now.
"I think a lot of girls really enjoy doing it," Burkhartsmeyer said. "They join every year 'cause it's a lot of fun."
And it might even continue for the seniors. Hauser said she might look into joining a gymnastics or cheerleading team once she gets into college next year. The others might too.
"I suppose if there were options, I would try it out," Burkhartsmeyer said.