Thirty-four feet, one stomp.
The girls of the North Queens Drill Team march in unison as their steps echo around the Mountlake Terrace High School parking lot at golden hour. Their arms, though moving, remain stiff, and their eyes all lock on some point in the distance.
The North Queens Drill Team is a semi-military performance team of girls ranging in age from 8 to 20. They will be performing in the Tour de Terrace parade on July 27, as they have every year since the parade’s inception in 1993, according to Drill Mistress Kim Looney.
They march in parades and festivals around the state, nearly year round, and compete in the spring against other drill teams from the state. Next April, they will be fighting to win their fourth state championship in a row, which has never been done before in the competition’s history.
Looney marched on the North Queens team from 1972 until 1980, when she took over as its leader. She has seen the team undergo many changes, including the age range and the style of movements. But the core of this style of drill team is in the same united steps and arm movements. From these routines, Looney said she hopes the girls learn leadership, responsibility and discipline, while still enjoying themselves.
And this goes for girls of all ages— the newer, usually younger, members of the team make up the color guard, which carries the flags. This part of the team is smaller and practices their own drills, led by captain Faith Seeber.
“I like the routine and the military part, the strict schedule,” Seeber said. She has been on the team since she was 10. Now, at 18, she is preparing to go into the military. Seeber said she also enjoys the bonding that happens on the team, which was clear as she led the younger girls with a huge smile.
The girls are close. During breaks, when they “fall out,” the north queens laugh and chat on the grass, and eat candy provided by the team’s “counselors” (parents who volunteer to bring supplies and food). “This is what gets her up in the morning,” said mother Ashley Harless. Her daughter, Piper, found fast friends when she joined the team. “She’s never been in anything that’s made her feel that way before,” Harless said of her daughter.
The girls, though all friends of all ages, do have rankings within the team for leadership. Besides captain, there’s first lieutenant, second lieutenant, sargent and corporal. The girls have to try out every year for their position, and are given the leadership opportunity by a panel of judges and Looney.
This year is Destinee Harris’s second year being captain of the team, despite being 14 years old. She’s been on the team since she was eight, and said that sometimes it’s stressful keeping all of the girls in check.
Of leading girls that are older than her, though, she said “it all works itself out.” Harris said she’s gained confidence and discipline through drill team. “When I first joined I was super shy and couldn’t do anything by myself, but now I’m out there more,” she said. “My captain when I was on the team was super strict and had a lot of authority, and you learn better from it.” Nonetheless, Harris’s favorite part is the time spent with her teammates when they march in parades and go spend time doing fun activities together afterwards. “I love it,” she said.
These trips were also the favorite of the younger girls including nine-year-olds Leona and Maya, seven-year-old Jordan, and eight-year-old Giyanna Sherrill. The girls almost couldn’t contain themselves when they started talking about their team camping trip, before running away to prance about the parking lot. In contrast to the high-energy running the girls did in their break time, Giyanna wanted to demonstrate her favorite drill “Drill Down,” a distinct series of stomps, turns, and holding a stiff posture.
When asked why it was her favorite, she said “Because you don’t have to hold flags or nothing!”
At the end of practice the team gathers, sometimes welcoming alumni of the team, to discuss upcoming parades and events. The girls’ practices are 1.5 hours during the summer, and two hours during school, every Tuesday night. Their competition team practices three nights per week, and five hours on Saturdays during competition season.
Though the summer is the more relaxed season, the girls are full of energy and excitement for all of their upcoming events and performances, including Tour de Terrace, which provides a uniquely large audience. They can be seen in blue and white uniforms, ruling the parade route in military fashion, and handing out flyers so more people can learn how to join the North Queens family.
–Story and photos by Mardy Harding