The girls of Drill Team Hawaii claimed 12 first-prize honors in two recent national dance competitions. Members of the team are, from left, front row, Caylie Shiramizu, Alyson Shoji; second row, Kayla Cortez, Careese Higaki, Kimilyn Goshi, Kayla Hiura; third row, Kyllie Hiura, Lindsey Leong, Erin Ino, Alyssa Gujiwara; fourth row, Noelani Nagamine, Sasha Dee Dayoan, Shyla Grubb, Jacelyn Oshiro, Jordi Oshiro, Shelby Wong; back row, Alysha Nagamine, Jena Inouye, Jenna Kamei, Carolyn Higuchi, Raclayn Monces, Jennifer Kotake, Reyna Fujii, Harley Watanabe and Alexsi Wong.

Isle drill team leaves
aloha in wake

Drill Team Hawaii impresses
judges with their talent and
their generosity

By Pat Gee

Twirling and kicking and leaping, bopping their heads to the beat, the girls go through vigorous dance numbers and keep their smiles going -- even if it's just rehearsal.

The years of practice have paid off.

The 92 girls from kindergarten to high school, making up Drill Team Hawaii, claimed 12 first-prize honors in two recent national dance competitions.

Instructor Penny Young formed the dance company 30 years ago, working out of the gym at St. Andrew's Priory. Young says the team uses different dance styles, encompassing ballet, jazz and acrobatics. Her daughter, Febray Kaopua, has assisted her as director and choreographer for several years.

Drill Team Hawaii, made up of public and private school students, perform at least once a month at local sporting and other public events on Oahu. They've also danced at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade and Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York.

While the team has always done well nationally, the back-to-back trips to Florida and California garnered more awards than usual. "We were totally amazed," Young said.

The 19 older girls won three first prizes in the 2003 Contest of Champions Dance Team Competition in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 28 to March 2, in the pompom, lyrical (slow) and small ensemble categories. They also won a second-place prize in the trio category, featuring Shyla Grubb, Jacelyn Oshiro and Jennifer Kotake; and two fourth-place honors in military and jazz numbers.

The younger girls, 72 from junior high to kindergarten, went to San Bernardino, Calif., March 8 and won first prize in all nine categories they entered during the one-day U.S.A. Dance Nationals.

In the Florida competition, "what was neater than the first-place awards that they won was they left such a lasting impression. ... They set a real precedent for everybody; everyone was so impressed with the kind of people they are," Young said.

"Every single time a winner was announced, they stood up and applauded. We were the only team who did that," Young said.

Every time Hawaii won an award, the audience chanted "Hawaii! Hawaii!" The girls were popular because they took leis and gifts to give away and made lots of friends with members of competing teams.

Young always tells them: "The important thing is to do your best. It's OK to lose as long as you do your best. ... I don't teach them to compete; I teach them to perform." She told them to "make friends, learn, see what the other teams are like" to see how much better they could become.

Young said the competition for the older group is one of the fiercest and most prestigious in the nation because it is attended by 8,000 participants of the highest caliber.

Grubb, who has been with Young for 12 years, is captain of the high school team and one of its best dancers. As the contest grew near, she said, "It was really neat to see how the team got closer as we progressed." There is no rivalry among members of the team, but they in fact "honor each other" for each person's strength in whatever dance style they excel, she said.

Drill Team Hawaii

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