Finishing Line

Rangerette hopefuls close in on dream

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For some Kilgore College Rangerette hopefuls, a spot on the world famous dance-drill team has been a lifelong dream, while others made the decision to try out more recently.

Ashley Orme said she hopes to join the 78th line and continue what has become a tradition at her Magnolia-based Dance Connections studio.

“Rangerettes have been brought up from that studio, so it’s been a habit for all of us to try out,” she said.

On just the second day of the weeklong pre-training process, Orme said, the experience has been fun.

“The sophomores make it very enjoyable for us,” she said. “Even though there’s rules for what hopefuls can and cannot do, they still make it fun for us, and I’ve really enjoyed my time being here.”

All of the hopefuls, who are staying in Stark Hall on campus, have gotten to know each other and made friends quickly, she said.

One of Rangerette Director Dana Blair’s goals, she said, is for the hopefuls to leave pre-training with a positive experience and to gain something from it, even if they do not make the team.

Houston native Avry Francis did not about know the Rangerettes until May, but it did not take her long to choose to try out.

“They’re very close and their training is amazing,” she said. “The rules are strict and lovely, and it’s just great for life and for now and very beneficial in my future.”

During her research she found the history behind the team and what makes them world famous.

The 89 hopefuls will be competing for a spot on the 78th line of the Rangerettes.

Kilgore High School graduate Ryan Wayne is among that group vying for one of the coveted 36 spots.

Wayne, daughter of Rangerette Assistant Director and Choreographer Shelley Wayne, told her small group during Sunday’s Rangerette Tea that she has dreamed of becoming a Rangerette since she was a child.

“It’s overwhelming, knowing that it might be my turn to carry on the legacy (…) but it’s also really exciting and a long awaited dream,” she said before the start of Day 3 of pre-training.

Wayne is trying to handle the challenges – both mental and physical – of pre-training just like the other hopefuls and finding the positive moments throughout the experience.

The process has been nerve-wracking but a little easier than Bria Williams first anticipated.

“Some days I feel like I’m doing good, and then on some dances I feel like I’m doing bad. I’m confident, but at the same time I’m still nervous. Knowing that there’s 89 girls and only a certain amount of spots is very intimidating,” she said.

Although coming from McKinney, Williams said, she is originally from Wisconsin and first learned about the Rangerettes after attending Revels her freshman year of high school. In January 2017 Williams made the decision to continue dancing and to try out for the 78th line.

The final decision of which dancers are selected – to be announced Friday morning in Dodson Auditorium – is one of the hardest for Blair to make. And it does not get any easier.

The second half of the week is when the fun of pre-training gives way to the responsibility of selecting the newest Rangerettes, she said, with Friday being one of her least favorite days. Although 30-something are ecstatic for their future in the red, white and blue uniforms, even more do not make the team.

While the day is exciting for those 30-plus selected dancers, she said, “There’s a lot more other people who are upset, sad and disappointed, and that weighs a lot heavier on me. I know the other girls get to come back and I can be happy and have fun with them when they come back.”

When it comes to making those final selections, Blair said, she looks for the dancers who have the most qualities they look for from dance ability and kick technique to projection and adaptability.

With the first football game Aug. 26, Blair said, adaptability is important for the selected women because a little more than a month after finding out they are a Rangerette, the freshmen will have to perform with the sophomores as a cohesive group.

“It’s very competitive and very small things can keep one girl from making it,” Blair said. “It’s not a big thing usually, it’s just something little because we can only take so many.”

The choreography incorporates more studio dance, such as ballet and contemporary styles, because more dancers enter tryouts with those skills. That can also make pre-training more competitive.

“It’s off the charts,” Blair said. “Twenty years ago when they tried out, they were truly just dance-drill team girls. Their only dancing they may have had was in drill team, and now most all of them take outside studio dance… Just as far as the professionalism of the dancing, it’s way more in a professional studio level than it used to be.”

Sophomore Rangerette Jadyn Champagne said she most looks forward to seeing how the hopefuls grow in just the week of pre-training.

“Their first day is completely different than their last day. You can grow so much in five days and you don’t even realize it,” she said.

Champagne made the cut her second attempt after an injury kept her from the 76th line.

“It’s definitely a surreal experience being on the opposite side. I can definitely relate to what they’re going through; I think all of us can. It’s a blessing because I never thought I could be here,” she said.

Having the experience of trying out twice has helped Champagne give more personalized, specific corrections and markings to benefit the hopefuls and help them improve, she said.

The 78th line of the Kilgore College Rangerettes will be revealed Friday morning at 10 a.m. in Dodson Auditorium. The reveal itself is closed to the public, and family and friends will be allowed into the space immediately following the announcement.

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