By Dana Delgado
It may be the thrill of the game that brings fans out to Liberty Hill High School football games, but it’s the pageantry and performance by a host of ancillary groups that capture and accentuate the action on the field.
One group that will be entertaining fans will be the Liberty Belles and Liberty Stars, the high school’s varsity and junior varsity drill teams, respectively.
With the music reverberating in the practice dance room, the drill teams have been polishing their routines with new vigor under the watchful eyes of new directors. Lauren Lipinski is the new director for the Belles after serving as assistant last year while new hire Megan Fitzgerald will assist with the Belles and direct the Stars.
“I’m super excited,” Lipinski said. “It’s been my dream to be a drill director.”
Lipinski’s career in dance got its start at Round Rock’s Stony Point High School where she participated on the drill team for four years and was captain of the group in her senior year. At the University of Texas at San Antonio, Lipinski was on the “Pom” squad and later performed at Texas Stars Hockey Team games in Cedar Park. The new director holds a degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
Director Lipinski said the Liberty Belles would be performing at all varsity football games as well as possibly some basketball games and special community and school events.
“One of our goals is to explore all sides of dance and immerse ourselves in drill team traditions,” Lipinski said. “We have added new drill team entrances and will be participating with the full band on the field. The team did not compete last year but we will this year.”
The Belles’ competition schedule includes a contest in February 2018, which LHHS will host as well as competitions at Vista Ridge High School and Fredericksburg.
The 15-member varsity Liberty Belles team will be led by student captain Kassidy Strickland. She will be assisted by Maddy Glasgow (1st lieutenant), Maddie Eddings (senior lieutenant), and Grace Bednarz (junior lieutenant). Group officers include Carrie Haskell (president), Brylee Brandt (vice-president), and Leah Hanstein (historian). Other members of the varsity drill team are Daniela Sandoval, Juliana Reid, Sophie Chkaiban, Jacey Payne, Kenzie Laas, Trinity Holloway, Kaytlynn Taylor, Haeven Gibbons, and Mackenzie Heitz.
“This is a close-knit team,” said Lipinski. “Half are returning, three to four moved up from the JV team and two are brand new but it’s a fun, hardworking group with a very positive attitude.”
The varsity drill team begins the year on the heels of a successful performance at a three-day summer camp in Horseshoe Bay sponsored by Danceline USA. The Belles walked off with a host of awards including the Super Sweepstakes Award.
“We also won the Staff Choice Award, Most Admired Award, and Showmanship Award,” Lipinski said. Every member of the Liberty Belles was selected to the Elite Team, which travels around the country. “I saw the joy on their faces and I told them we could be a really good team. We’re off to a great start.”
Also this summer, the Liberty Belles hosted the Little Belles Camp for students in grades PK-7th. The Little Belles will join the varsity group Oct. 13 for a performance on the football field.
Liberty Stars Director Megan Fitzgerald had been waiting for the opportunity to teach dance and help direct a drill team since her recent graduation from Texas State University with a major in dance education.
An initial email from Liberty Hill Junior High Principal Annette Coe turned out to be a false alarm as the Principal only needed some additional information concerning Fitzgerald’s references. Finally, the week before teachers reported for duty, Fitzgerald got a job offer from Coe.
“When she hung up, I started crying,” said Fitzgerald. “This opportunity came at the last minute, but I was extremely lucky. There aren’t many dance jobs around.”
Fitzgerald’s resume includes a four-year stint with the “Strutters,” the Texas State University drill team where she was a line officer and performed at various venues including San Antonio Spurs’ games, the 2017 presidential inauguration as well as inaugural galas, London, and Disneyland in Paris. She also was a four-year member of Hutto High School’s Hi-Stepper drill team.
Besides overseeing the Liberty Stars and assisting Belles’ Director Lipinski, Fitzgerald will teach a variety of dance classes at the Junior High.
“I’m really excited,” Fitzgerald said. “It should be fun.”
The 12-member Liberty Stars drill team will be performing at freshmen and junior varsity football games. The Stars will be led by sophomore leaders Shanti Ramsingh (captain) and Aubrey Tucker (1st lieutenant).
“I’m honored and excited,” said Ramsingh, who transferred to Liberty Hill from North Carolina and was a member of last year’s first ever LHHS junior varsity drill team.
Tucker, who also returns from last year’s squad, said she’s been waiting some time for the opportunity to perform.
“I don’t really like to run, but dance lets me release a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s fun and gives me a rush and we get to perform in front of a lot of different audiences.”
Joining Ramsingh and Tucker on the Liberty Stars drill team are Anissa Garza, Kalli Witt, Caitlyn Mutchler, Riley Frank, Alyssa Schaefer, Sara Hesskew, Skylar Mason, Hanna Turman, Allie Jernigan, and Madison Hudson.