MORGAN -- After a tough year marked by the arrest of their drill instructor, the Morgan High School Troyettes bounced back to win a first-place award at a national competition.
"Our drill team has had a very interesting year," said Morgan Streadbeck, 16, a junior on the drill team. "We've faced more challenges and trials than any of us ever expected (before) trying out last spring. But we came out stronger and grew so much closer from all of the obstacles that threatened us."
In November 2011, school district officials put drill team instructor Josie Foster on administrative leave. She pleaded guilty in December to burglary and possession of a controlled substance, agreeing to participate in drug counseling.
According to a Morgan County Sheriff's Office statement, the office fielded numerous complaints -- including some from drill team members and their families -- concerning missing prescription medications. Several open cases were linked back to Foster, who was cooperative during the investigation.
In March, Morgan's drill team won first place competing against 12 teams, from across the nation, in the open division medium military category at the 2012 United Spirit Association Dance/Drill National Competition in Anaheim, Calif.
"Morgan has never, that I know of, placed that high at nationals before," said Cheri Mathews, who took over instructing the team in November.
She had served as Morgan's drill coach before.
"The Troyettes were blessed when Cheri stepped in amid the chaos and brought these girls together," said Cari Stokes, mother of a drill team member. "She kept the team together, overcame hurdles and ultimately achieved an unprecedented national championship."
The team had a lot to do when Mathews took over in November.
"We worked very hard, reworking military, learning a new dance routine and new character routine," Mathews said.
Former coach Natalie Christensen choreographed the award-winning military routine.
The senior members of the drill team choreographed the dance routine in December.
After placing fifth out of seven teams in region competition, and almost last in state competition, the team's hopes were not too high heading to nationals, Stokes said.
"We went to nationals with no expectation at all. We just wanted to end the year on a good note with a good performance and seeing the dance world outside Utah. We had no idea that the judges would see our routine as No.1," Mathews said. "We were blown away with the news. We went from shock to complete surprise to utter joy. There were many tears, hugs and crying, but a feeling that I know the girls will carry with them always. I know that I will always remember that day and the joy of that moment."
"We just planned on going out there and performing one last time for fun together," Streadbeck said. "I couldn't believe our team had won first place. My mind and heart were racing. It was insane. We all screamed and cheered and cried and laughed and hugged for an hour at least."
Streadbeck said drill team members have learned a lot during the past school year.
"I learned that you always need to expect the unexpected. Nothing in life ever turns out the way you plan. But if you continue to be determined, hard working, keep a positive attitude toward the things you're most passionate about, to love the team you're on, and if everyone always remembers the goal you're striving for, everything will turn out the way it is supposed to be," she said. "Nothing in life is handed to you, so never give up."
In March, the district hired Kimberly Ball from Cedar City as the new drill coach. Although she wasn't able to attend the competition, she has conducted tryouts for the next drill season.
The team also placed sixth in the medium character dance category with a Tahitian-themed routine and competed in the dance category as well.