BY SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
OREM — The Bountiful High School Mandonelles completed another run to the State 4A drill team title, completing a journey some five years in the making.
When action concluded on the state competition at Utah Valley University’s UCCU Center, the Mandonelles were once again crowned the 4A state champions, despite not finishing in first place in all three categories.
“It is very rare to sweep every category at state,” said Mandonelles coach Jan Whittaker. “There are many great drill teams in this state. Our goal was to win the title again and we knew we needed to be near the top of each category in order to accomplish that goal.”
Similar to years past, the military routine was once again the top routine for Bountiful, which finished first ahead of Maple Mountain and Hillcrest.
The military portion, considered the most precise of the three routines in the competition, ended up setting the tone for the rest of the competition, said Whittaker.
“We’re known for having difficult routines,” she said. “It’s very difficult to have a clean military routine and make it look easy because every movement has to be precise with the entire team in unison.”
Having swept all three categories in the past, the Mandonelles first disappointment came in the kick routine. They finished second behind Hillcrest, and were shocked by the initial outcome.
“It was a shocker because it was the best we had ever done,” said Mandonelles captain Claire Christiansen. “So it was really scary.”
The team’s most elaborate routine, the kick, once again had the Mandonelles on stilts.
A change to this year’s competition had the entire team on stilts rather than a select few.
“We had the team walking on stilts as soon as they made the team in May,” Whittaker said. “I’ve wanted to do a kick routine on stilts for a while, and they just clarified the rule to make stilts footwear rather than a prop. The girls make it look easy, but it’s very difficult to walk on them and even more difficult to kick with them strapped to your legs.”
Despite the extreme difficulty, the Mandonelles finished second in the routine behind Mountain Crest.
It came as a shock to the entire team, and worried others about the team’s title streak coming to an end.
“I was worried that we were going to get beat out,” said Brynn Mortenson, a new member to the team.
Aija Evans, a junior on the squad, said the team was nervous when it finished in second place for the dance portion.
“It was the worst feeling,” she said. “Not that we were going to lose,, but we felt like we had disappointed our coach.”
In the end, however, the Mandonelles ended up capturing their fifth straight state title, and Whittaker’s 15th overall.
“It was very exciting to win the fifth title,” said Whittaker. “My coaching staff does a tremendous job. Malorie Allred, Anjie Bohn and Jessica Magalei have been great these past several years, and we also have a great and supportive administration.”
Christiansen said afterward that the team’s state title streak “made all the hard work pay off,” adding that being a part of the team’s legacy and tradition is something she’ll be proud of.
Evans credits the squad’s friendship this season as a key component to the win, and many dancers gave credit to their coaching staff and Whittaker.
“Our team has really bonded over the last three years, so that’s helped,” said Christiansen.
Along with winning the state title, Whittaker was also voted as coach of the year, which she said came as a surprise to her.
The drill season is now over, but the team has two more things to be proud of: Ten dancers made the academic All-Region team this season, and three made the academic All-State list. Among the All-State members are Lindsay Parrish, Chandler Meyer, and Christiansen.
“They’re not only great on the floor, but they’re great in the classroom as well,” said Whittaker.
Clipper editor Rebecca Palmer contributed to the reporting for this article.