Glendale High School's Small Military squad

Glendale High School's Small Military squad performs their "Mary Poppins" routine at the 2011 USA Dance/Drill Nationals at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday, March 26, 2011. (Photos courtesy of Mike Lancaster)

The Glendale High School dominated at the 2011 USA Dance/Drill Nationals at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend, winning six awards, including four first-place prizes. Glendale also recaptured the coveted co-ed title, its 12th win in the event in 13 years.

“It feels amazing,” said long-time coach Kelly Palmer. “Obviously we were most concerned with the co-ed position. We told ourselves going in anything else would be icing on the cake, but I don’t think we expected to get so much icing.”

The first place wins came in the junior varsity large military division, varsity small military and large military divisions, and the co-ed division.

This year, coaches and students dubbed themselves the “redeem team” after falling short of goals at the national competition in 2010. They produced an impressive season with the varsity squad recording 56 first-place and two second-place finished at nine competitions.

Much of the focus was on the co-ed event, which features a three-minute choreographed routine performed by 15 couples. Judges look for stunt work, floor patterns and chemistry. Glendale High has dominated the event, winning consecutive national titles from 1999 to 2009 before finishing third last year.

Before the 30 co-ed squad members took to the floor Saturday night, Palmer gave them a few last-minute words of advice.

“I told them that when they looked around at each other on the floor that they were not only responsible for themselves, but they were responsible for getting the person on their right and on left through the routine,” Palmer said.

And when their first-place finish was announced later that night, the Glendale High contingent exploded.

“The crowd went wild, we went wild,” said Nina Enciso, 18. “I jumped on my co-ed partner and we cried. And then we ran up to get our trophy.”

Perfecting the routine took, time, effort, sore muscles and tears, but in the end it was all worth it, said Kevin Velasquez, 17.

“We were definitely nervous going into it,” Kevin said. “Even on the floor, we had two little mistakes in our routine, and because of that we were really scared of the outcome. But when it came through, the judges just loved our routine.”

The level of dedication and commitment demonstrated by the coaches and student dancers is unmatched by any other program on campus, Principal Deb Rinder said.

“There is no mediocrity on the Glendale High drill team,” Rinder said. “You are all in or you are out. The fact that kids balance all of what is required of them and then maintain high standards of academics is also worthy of being noted.”

The team receives strong financial and emotional support from families, Glendale High alums and community members, including Johnny Harrison, vice president of Lexus of Glendale, Rinder said.