The Pleasant Grove Vikettes Drill Team out performed its competition in Region 4 Drill Team Competition at Riverton High School Jan. 22 and left with the region championship for the first time in 11 years.

"I think competitions here within the state are tougher than national competitions because we have better quality coaches and athletes on our teams," said Pleasant Grove drill coach Stacy Squires, whose team won a National Championship - Small Team Division crown at a Contest of Champions at Disney World in 2011.

"In national contests, you will compete against several groups but they aren't as good as the teams we have in Utah," Squires said. "It's tough to win a region or state championship because the competition is very good."

Co-captains Emily Jones and Kelsie Maughan described the judging that goes on when they perform stating the judges watch for execution points, hitting stunts, eye contact, fingernails, costumes, formations, and going out of bounds.

Officially, judging categories are appearance, showmanship, projection, execution, precision, memory, rhythm, kicks and splits.

There are 23 girls on the team.

"Not everyone participates in all the routines, " said team member Sami Jo Carson. "You audition for each dance, not everyone does all the dances, the competition is tough."

One routine — the military program — needed to be re-done because the team could not score very well with the original dance. After upgrades, the team used the military again and scored firsts with it on each usage.

"We practice every day including Saturdays," Squires said. "The auditions to get on the team are usually in April and we go hard after the new team is selected. We have to get them in shape and stay in shape."

At region, the Vikettes competition is from Herriman High School and Lone Peak High School, and at the state level it's 2013 champion Copper Hills as well as Bingham and Hillcrest, who are also very tough to beat.

"It is so exciting to get out on the floor and hear the students loudly clap and chant to the music, you have to be there to feel it," Squires said. "The parents are awesome, too. They respond when we have needs and volunteer even more."

Cami Goodwin, a past cheer coach at Pleasant Grove and now a member of United Cheer Association, a group that does judging nationally of cheer and drill team competitions said, "Those girls work extremely hard to be the best athlete they can be. There are guys that play football or basketball that have said they wouldn't want to do cheer or drill because the girls work harder than the guys do."

"These girls are athletes," Squires added. :They tryout and are members of a sports team. Their goal is to win every competition, win a regional championship and take state. They work just as hard as the guys do and I don't want them to be overlooked for their efforts just because they are girls. They are athletes."

The state competition is Friday at the UCCU Center on the campus of Utah Valley University.

"The judges at state will have not seen any of our routines," Squires said. "It will be like a brand new beginning — a fresh start. We will be working all this week to fix all of the small mistakes we have made and be ready to go on Friday."

Squires attended Pleasant Grove High School and college at Utah State University where she earned a degree in dance and health. She coached six years at Tooele High School before coming to Pleasant Grove. This is her fifth year with the Vikettes.

Kent Allen lives in Pleasant Grove and covers varsity sports at Pleasant Grove High School for Deseret Connect.