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Matt Gade, Deseret News
Union competes during the 3A state drill championships at Utah Valley University's UCCU center in Orem on Saturday, February 1, 2014.
My mom gave me the chance and so did my coaches. They said, 'If you don't want to be there, then we understand. It's OK.' But I'm here for my team. It's going to be really hard if you have a big hole in your dance, so I came. —Chantel Townsend

OREM — Just two days before the state championships, tragedy struck the Union High drill team.

It was after the Thursday morning pep assembly that Chantel Townsend received news that her father had been killed in a fatal automobile accident. As reported by the Deseret News, Dean Townsend’s pickup truck was struck early that morning by a jack-knifed trailer being pulled by a tanker truck on a two-lane highway in Duchesne County.

Townsend, a senior who had been dancing since she was 3 years old, was suddenly faced with dancing while mourning.

“My mom gave me the chance and so did my coaches. They said, ‘If you don’t want to be there, then we understand. It’s OK,’” she said, referring to the 1A/2A/3A drill state championships held Saturday at Utah Valley University. “But I’m here for my team. It’s going to be really hard if you have a big hole in your dance, so I came.”

In sticking with tradition, the Union team arrived in Orem Friday to watch the 4A/5A competition, have a team meal, and make Build-a-Bears. Townsend, a student body officer, two-time all-state dancer, and academic all-state recipient, saw the team off but then spent the night in Roosevelt with her family.

“I didn’t want to come out (with the team),” she said. “It’s hard being around everyone because they all know and they all want to hug you and give you stuff, and it’s hard to be reminded of it.”

When she arrived in Orem, she was greeted with multiple bouquets of flowers and a bag full of cards addressed to her and her family from other drill teams.

“Drill team has always been a community where we’re a big family,” she said. “No matter how much we compete against each other, they feel bad and want to help out. No matter where you go, you’re always intertwined and you make friends, and they’re there for you.”

In the midst of trying to keep her focus on her team and her routines, Townsend’s Union squad celebrated a fifth-place finish in the military category, fourth in dance, and fourth in character with a wave-themed routine, all culminating in a fourth-place overall finish in the 3A competition.

“This has been really good,” Townsend said. “They’ve (teammates) been supporting me the whole way.”

The overall 3A champion was Uintah, which captured its third consecutive title on Saturday. Uintah, which traveled well with a section full of fans, swept the three categories en route to the team championship trophy, capping the evening with an Arabian-themed routine.

South Sevier placed first in military and character and third in dance, winning the overall title in the 2A competition for its second title in three years. Duchesne swept all three categories for its 11th straight 1A drill team championship.

In 3A, Dixie High placed second overall, followed by Canyon View in third and Cedar City in fifth. In the military category, Region 9 teams Dixie, Canyon View and Cedar City finished second, third and fourth, respectively. The Southern region also placed well in dance, with Cedar City finishing second, Canyon View finishing third and Dixie finishing fifth.

In character, Dixie (second), Juab (third) and North Sanpete (fifth) completed the standings, while Richfield received a strong reaction from the crowd with its “Old People with Walkers” routine.

In 2A, South Summit, Kanab, Parowan and Manti completed the overall standings. In the military category, South Summit, Kanab, Manti and North Summit placed second through fifth; in dance, Kanab placed second, followed by South Summit, Parowan and Manti; and in character, South Summit again placed second, followed by Parowan, Gunnison and Kanab.

In 1A, Monticello, Piute, Altamont and Milford placed second through fifth in military, dance — and the overall standings. Monticello placed second in character with a routine set to “Going to the Chapel,” Piute earned third with a mime-themed dance, and Altamont and Milford placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.