Drill teams descend on Kilgore this weekend

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“Last year when I came we were kind of on the sides, so during the performance I remember I kept watching the Rangerettes dance in the middle and not focusing on myself.”

Freshman Rangerette McKenna Fairbanks, of North Richland Hills, this week recalled last year’s drill team day, when she came to Kilgore to perform with the Rangerettes.

“I was just too busy watching them because I wanted to be on the team so bad, so I just took it as an opportunity to watch them dance. It’s just going to be different being on the other side of that, knowing that someone might be doing that.”

High school dancers from across Texas will travel to Kilgore to learn from and dance with the Rangerettes this weekend.

The full day will see 675 high school drill team members visit Kilgore College and learn more about the Rangerette organization. The third annual event will include a tour of the college campus and the Rangerette Showcase Museum, a screening of Overton Films’ “Sweethearts of the Gridiron,” a performance in Dodson Auditorium and the main event – performing with the Rangerettes during halftime at Kilgore College’s football game versus New Mexico Military Saturday.

Sarah Barns, who is the only sophomore Rangerette who attended Drill Team Day with her high school team and went on to become part of the organization, said it is the young dancers’ facial expressions she likes to watch.

“You can see them looking at us and talking about us, so for them to get that feeling up close and personal… that was fun for me,” she said, noting she hopes that is something the freshmen take away from the experience. “We always see it from a distance when people come to stuff, but they’re actually right next to us. Like, McKenna said, like she was watching them. There will be that person this year.”

For Mt. Pleasant High School graduate Madison Blalock, having the Rangerette experience during last year’s “Drill Team Day” was her first exposure to the organization and was what convinced her to try out for the team.

“From where I’m from, this is not really heard of,” she said. “It’s been a really long time since there’s actually been a Rangerette come from our team… This was my first experience when I came as a high schooler to actually be exposed to Rangerettes, so that really opened my eyes up to the Rangerettes.”

Even for some local dancers, Saturday’s performance could be the first time they see the Rangerettes on the field instead of on the Dodson Auditorium stage.

Veronica Sundin, of Tyler, got the same push from her visit to Kilgore as a high school student during Coast2Coast Productions’ annual Drill Team Day.

“I remember how it felt being somebody who was interested in trying out for Rangerettes and being out there and seeing them perform and seeing their performance… I’m just excited for them to see what it feels like to perform on that field and hopefully to inspire some girls to try out or to look into Rangerettes some more because I know that was a real kind of kick starter for me to want to try out for Rangerettes,” Sundin said.

“What I’m really excited to be a part of this year is to be that inspiration for all those girls and be in the red, white and blue,” freshman Rangerette Ashlyn Fleet, of Tyler, said.

When Barns made the transition from hopeful to ’Rette last year, she said, “It was like the dream… It was just a very good feeling. It felt accomplished, honored.”

Dreams are what Kilgore High School graduate and freshman Rangerette Ryan Wayne said she wants her KHS Hi-Steppers to take from the weekend’s events.

Saturday will give her the chance to perform for her high school teammates for the first time as a Rangerette and she gets to dance with them again, even if it is in a different way than ever before.

“I’m really excited for them to get to see my transition just going from being with them to now pursuing my dream,” Wayne said.

One of Barns’ favorite things about the day is seeing the high school dancers talk and interact with the Rangerettes they know from their hometowns.

“I remember whenever I came my junior year with my high school, I saw these different teams from Houston and Dallas and all, kind of far away. It was awesome to see all the teams that had obviously come from the creation of the Rangerettes all back in one place with the Rangerettes,” Sundin said. “That was really neat.”

After spending so much time trying to impress the directors and judges, Sundin said, they sometimes forget about the influence they can have on future Rangerettes.

“We want them to look up to us as much as we looked up to us when we were in high school,” Barns said.

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