by Hannah Moss, KC Marketing Intern
“I felt panic and peace – all at the same time,” said Ariana Hickman, of Mesquite, as she awaited the final results of the Rangerette officer tryout. Eventually, the officer line for 2020-21 was announced to a full homestand on a hot August night at R.E. St. John Stadium. After an evening of celebration, once again, panic and peace are what the officers felt going into a year like none other.
Flashing back, Friday, March 13, 2020, will go down as one of the worst days of a Rangerette’s life. On this unlucky day, 69 women were told to move out of the Gussie Nell Davis Residence Hall as Texas started shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement to cancel Revels followed shortly thereafter. On that day, there was no peace, just panic. No one knew what was going to happen.
Next, the Rangerette summer camps were canceled. However, due in large part to careful planning by the Rangerette organization’s staff, a successful, COVID-free, tryout did take place in July to choose the 81stline and prove there was hope for the future.
But even with the peace of knowing full lines of freshmen and sophomores were ready to dance, the pursuit of officers looked different too.
The Showoff event was moved from the stage of Dodson Auditorium to the football field where the women spend a large portion of their fall semester. After the freshmen and sophomore lines each performed their socially distanced routines, the annual officer strut commenced. Twelve sophomore women competed for the coveted 5 batons that would lead the group this year.
“My stomach dropped every time my name was called to strut,” said Kali Rochford, of Midlothian. “I was nervous about the moment, and what the future holds for the line.”
The Rangerette summer camps are a big part of the tryout because that is where the candidates get to showcase their leadership and teaching stills. Since the camps were canceled, the directors had to find other ways to conduct the tryout. The first portion started at home.
“The transition from home to in-person was a little scary,” said Rochford, new right middle lieutenant. “But once I saw the other candidates going through the same situation, I felt more comfortable because we were in it together.”
The tryout is meant to shape the candidates into the best version of themselves.
Hickman, in her new spot as left middle lieutenant, said the process helped her personally.
“I didn’t expect to grow,” she said. “I just thought I would put myself out there and hope for the best. But I am a much more confident leader than I was when I started the tryout.”
The new officers, who were freshman during the shutdown, have proven to be capable of overcoming the challenges they are facing today.
“The past months have inspired me to want to push our class to become the strongest we can be,” said Scarlet Walls, new right end lieutenant, of Plano. “I believe my class will be the most inspiring group to ever go through this organization.”
The women acknowledge the training from Rangerettes has prepared them for anything.
“We are lucky to be a Rangerette because it teaches you to persevere through challenges,” Walls said. “It teaches us to soak in every moment. This organization has taught me to not take anything for granted – even before COVID-19.”
One real-life application is seen in the team’s world-famous kick line. In that situation, the women must move together as one unit or the performance won’t be executed properly. Bailey Stark, the new left end lieutenant from Cypress, praised the group’s unity.
“We are all close friends, so it’s easy to work together,” Stark said. “I believe our success will come from our motivating, and adaptable, officer line keeping the Rangerettes looking like a cohesive unit.”
After many months of panic, new captain Elisabeth Eckles sees officers at peace with the future.
“Our class is resilient in many ways,” said Eckles, of Whitehouse. “The circumstances these last few months have built us into the Rangerette class we are today. In some ways, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise because the relationship we built as a team has flourished.”
While the Rangerette organization has seen a lifetime of challenges in its 80 years, this is the first time it has been confronted with a pandemic. But with the new officers to guide them, the Rangerettes will continue to move on and off the field as a united front.