GLENELG HIGH School's drill team has a track record of success at regional, state and national competitions. But winning is only part of the story.
This talented, all-female group of 23 sophomores, juniors and seniors meets four times a week for three-hour practices.
The drill team is sometimes called a dance team. Its programs include kick and pom routines and jazz dancing. The girls perform at football and basketball games and pep rallies.
They compete most weekends from December through March.
Ninety percent of the team's members are on the school honor roll. Several hold part-time jobs. Nearly all are involved in extracurricular activities.
The drill team is one of the highest ranking in the Maryland-Virginia area. The girls took the 1998 state championship, placed third in the Metro (District of Columbia-Maryland) Championships and captured their second Canada-America regional -- and they just keep going.
Why do they dedicate so much time and energy to the team?
At a recent practice, senior team members -- all age 17 -- gave their answers.
"Because we like to dance!" exclaimed Christina Tisone.
"And it's fun!" the rest of the girls chimed in.
Captain Jennifer Spicknall explained that participating provides an opportunity "to get to know other people with the same love. It's a bonding experience."
Lisa Shields, also a team captain, said, "I always have a goal -- state competition is coming up. I'm very competitive, but I learn a lot of things besides dancing, like how to work with people and leadership skills."
Nichole Marasa said she joined the drill team because it would get her involved in many activities.
The drill team is a part of Glenelg's marching unit, along with the band and "silks" -- flag-bearing performers.
Each year, the marching unit takes a spring trip out of state to compete with other groups from around the country. It was on last year's trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., that Glenelg band member Jessica Nicola decided she wanted to be on the drill team.
"I saw them perform and just wanted to be part of it," she said.
This year, the marching unit will travel to Florida in April to compete in the Orlando Music Festival. For the competition, the girls will don Minnie Mouse costumes, complete with ears and tails.
Sitting on the sidelines during practice, drill team director Terry Newsome assembled 46 ears for the requisite 23 Minnie Mouse headpieces.
Newsome, who started coaching the drill team when her daughter, Karrie, was involved, has been with the team for eight years.
"One of the most rewarding things is watching these girls grow," Newsome said proudly. "Not just physically, but maturing as young women."
She remembers when this year's seniors first started with the team three years ago. "They were so young, nervous and scared," she said. "They've turned out to be so phenomenal and have become so technical in their dancing."
A typical practice session, which Newsome oversees, consists of an hour of toning, stretching and aerobics; an hour of skill development (like leaps and kicks); and at least an hour working on routines and choreography.
Newsome explained that the girls do their own choreography and choose the music for competitions.
"The kick routines are very hard," she said. "They are done so fast and the timing is difficult. When done right, everything is exactly uniform."
Newsome and the girls get along well, and sometimes, one girl said, they think of her as another mother.
"Miss Terry gives a lot of her time to us, and sometimes we don't thank her enough," said team member Johanna Varney.
Katie Paparazzo added, "Our parents do a lot, too."
Lisa's mother, Mary Jo Shields, is involved in putting together new-looking uniforms from the bits and pieces that have accumulated over the team's 27-year existence.
The girls agree that having busy schedules requires excellent time-management skills.
"You have to prioritize what you really need to do," Johanna said. She added that she sometimes eats while studying or in the car, and sleep usually suffers.
But to these girls, it's all worth it. The winning is great, and there's more.
"I like the thrill of getting on the floor in front of the whole school with people clapping and cheering," Katie said. "The school's really supportive."
Another team captain, Bryn Ecalono, said, "One of the best things is when your fellow classmates cheer you on and want you to perform well." "If they're out there cheering for you, it's better than winning," Jennifer summed up.
The River Hill High School Music Boosters are teaming up with Hard Times Cafe in Columbia for a fund-raiser. On Monday, between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m., come to the cafe, 8865 Stanford Blvd., just off Dobbin Road.
Half the money you spend there will go to the Music Boosters.
Information: Elizabeth Anderson, 410-531-5074.
Free wood chips
The Howard County Department of Public Works is offering free pine and hardwood chips while supplies last. Bring your own shovel, transportation and manpower and help yourself.
Chips are available at Alpha Ridge Park from 7 a.m. until dusk. Enter the park from Route 99, and take the first left to the site.
The Alpha Ridge Landfill, off Marriottsville Road, is distributing chips from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Information: Betsy McMillion, 410-313-3406.
Pub Date: 2/18/99