Dancer has high hopes for college drill team

Hearing the crunch of grass under your boots, strutting out and smiling as you sparkle under the Friday night lights, dancing your heart out and then walking away with pride – these are all sensations familiar to a Shy-Anne. To many, drill team is just another school activity, but for senior Shy-Anne captain Tillie Benson, it means so much more. Since she was four Tillie has been a dancer, and dancing has been her dream since the second grade.

“When I was in the second grade, my mom sent me to Kilgore for Rangerette camp for the first time,” Tillie said. “Ever since then I’ve been in love with the Kilgore Rangerettes, and I knew that I had to become one of them.”
Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas is where the Kilgore Rangerettes were put together in 1940, the very first drill team. The idea of a half-time show was an instant hit, and the Rangerettes became internationally famous, performing all over the world. The tradition continues today, and Tillie longs to be a part of it.

“Drill team is filled with traditions that have been passed down for years, and I love that,” Tillie said. “I love the discipline, hard work and expectations that come with drill team. I just love it, and I love to dance.”

In order to prepare herself for the upcoming tryouts, Tillie has been dedicated to dance training every week since her freshman year.

“Outside of Shy-Annes, I work out with a trainer four to five days a week, and on the weekends I have a former Rangerette help me and train me six to eight hours a weekend,” Tillie said. “I also take ballet, and I go to Rangerette camp every summer.”

In addition to all of her training, Tillie said that serving as captain of Shy-Annes is preparing her to be a Kilgore Rangerette by teaching her valuable lessons.

“[Being captain] has taught me to always be prepared and plan for anything,” Tillie said. “It also taught me the importance of being a servant leader and not a selfish leader, leading to serve the team and those around you rather than for the glory of yourself.”

Teammates admire and look up to Tillie not only for her leadership capabilities, but for her hard work and dedication.

“Tillie leads by example,” junior line member Kinsey Craig said. “Tillie is always willing to help others and does so with a positive attitude. She never settles for anything less than the best, and she is willing to put forth the effort necessary to get there.”

Being captain is testing her character as well, proving that being in charge of a team is not an easy task.

“Even when you know you’re doing the right thing, it’s hard to look at a group of girls and say, ‘this is what we’re gonna do, even though you don’t want to do it,'” Tillie said. “I think staying true to what you know is right is difficult, but you have to keep your morals in line. You have to stick to the plan.”

Coming to school early to lead the Shy-Annes every morning while juggling all of her other activities along with school work is no easy task. According to Tillie, it is sometimes discouraging, but her faith, the memory of her deceased father, her scheduled lifestyle and her dream are what help her get through it all.

“I pray a lot, and I have a plan,” Tillie said. “Everything’s on a schedule, and I make sure that I do everything on it. It’s been really hard [to stay motivated] when something’s years away, but you just have to stick to it. I think about how rewarding the day that I make Rangerettes could be; when that sign drops and my number’s there, it’ll be worth it.”

Tillie’s dedication doesn’t go unnoticed. Shy-Anne director, dance teacher and former Rangerette Nikki Evans admires Tillie and appreciates the help she has given her during her first year as the Shy-Annes director.

“[She has a] tremendous work ethic and ability to take initiative,” Evans said. “She is 100% committed to dance and the Shy-Anne organization. She has made my transition as a director as smooth as can be, and I have learned far more from her than she has from me.”

Tillie has big plans for her future involving dance that begin as early as this summer.

“I just got hired by Crowd Pleasers, a dance drill team company, so I’ll start teaching for them this summer at different high schools,” Tillie said. “If I make Rangerettes, I don’t know if I’ll keep dancing after that, but hopefully, at some point in my life, I’ll be a high school drill team director.”

Evans sees characteristics in Tillie that will help her reach her dream and has high hopes for her.

“Tillie possess many characteristics of a Rangerette,” Evans said. “She is poised and mature beyond her age. She is very decisive and organized. Most importantly, she has a genuine love and appreciation for the art of dance, and it is this passion that will help her become a Rangerette.”

Not only has Tillie been reaching for the stars, but she has also helped her teammates do the same along the way.

“Tillie has taught me to believe in myself and continue striving towards my goals when times get tough,” Craig said. “She challenges the team and pushes us to our fullest potential. The Shy-Annes have been very lucky to have such a talented and dedicated captain.”