The Juneau-Douglas High School Drill Team would like you to know that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated.
After the departure of longtime coach Leslie Dahl earlier this year and the resignation of her replacement over the summer, the team - with a storied tradition and recognition from around the world - had dwindled to a handful of members. Rumors circulated that the team was no more although it continued to function as a team as much as possible.
In the past few weeks, however, the outlook has become much brighter.
The team has a new coach and a newly-selected group of 17 performers and two managers who have started practicing to perform during the upcoming season of high school basketball games and drill team tournaments.
The new head of the team is Mandy Bixby, who knows the program well - she was a member of the drill team in 1992-93. The positive experience she had then inspired her to fill the coaching position when she heard the team was in trouble.
"I gained so much from the program, I would be sad" to see others not have that chance, she said. "This is my way of giving back to the program and to the community."
The team conducted tryouts earlier this month and had its first practice last week. Although the team has many new faces this season, Bixby said their spirit should translate to crowd-pleasing shows.
"We're going to be as entertaining as always," she said. "The greatest thing about this team is that they're committed (and) motivated. I couldn't be happier to work with a team of these dedicated girls."
Bixby said she has enjoyed seeing the team's progress so far.
"To see girls come through the tryouts, to see the girls come together as a team brings back a lot of memories," she said.
Team leaders AnnaMae Dumaop, Amanda Curry and Amber Jones - among the few who stayed with the program after last year - said despite the rumors, the team never "died." The three said they made an effort to keep the framework in place for their new leader.
"We were waiting for a coach to jump on; we were ready to go," Dumaop said.
When Bixby took the reins of the program, Jones said they were glad to see their efforts would be put to use.
"We were relieved that all the stuff we worked for was going to happen," she said.
And the team's message for its fans?
"Keep watching," Jones said. "We're going to be awesome."
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