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Sisterhood: Drill teams comfort one of their own

OREM — It was supposed to be a day full of possibilities, electrified with anticipation.

Jordan High senior Mackenzie Peyton had just finished drill team practice and was headed to class with several of her teammates last Thursday when she was summoned to an administrator's office.

It was there she learned that her father, Todd Peyton, had died during the night. He was just 45. He was supposed to have watched her perform at the 5A state drill competition the following day.

She collapsed into the agony of losing her dad, one of her most ardent supporters. And then, almost immediately, she was consumed by the love of her "sisters."

"They made everything so much easier," she said. "It felt so amazing to just collapse into their arms and to know they support and love me."

Her loss, in an instant, became their loss.

"The team, obviously, was shocked and devastated," said Jordan head coach Chandra Thompson. "They all spent the morning in the counseling center. The administration and counselors were amazing. They handled it so well."

But the show of love didn't end with the counseling session.

That night, Mackenzie Peyton received an impressive bouquet of flowers from this year's 5A state champion, Bingham.

"It was an amazing bouquet," Peyton said. She called her coach and told her that she wanted to participate in the state competition.

Thompson wasn't sure if Peyton would want to compete the next day.

"I didn't expect her to come," Thompson said. "She called me and said her dad would want her to. … She's a very independent, strong-willed girl. She's the kind of person you can throw into anything, and she'll do it. She's not going to let you down, and she works super hard."

The team decided to dedicate their performances to Todd Peyton.

"He's been so supportive of drill team," said his daughter, who is 17. "He was one of our biggest contributors at the golf tournament last year."

Tears rimmed her eyes as she talked about the "most beautiful" purple flowers he gave her at the region meet.

"They're still drying out," she said, as her teammates moved closer to put their arms around her.

No one, however, expected what happened the next day at the drill championships at UVU's McKay Events Center.

Lone Peak's squad brought the Jordan team homemade cookies and offered Mackenzie Peyton handwritten cards; Brighton's drill team gave her a hand-tied quilt. And last year's 5A champion, Hillcrest, replaced their green flowers with pink flowers, a nod to the color that defined Jordan's drill team this year.

"She asked us, 'How does everybody know?' " drill president Addee Bonner said after the team's final performance, which featured pink flowered swim caps. "The drill world was amazing."

Peyton nodded, as she clutched Bonner's hand.

"We walked in, and people started clapping," she said. "It made me feel like almost the whole world supported me."

And on that day, the entire drill world did.

"It's what sets the dance community apart," said Bingham head coach Morgan Meredith. "Dance is so founded on emotion and telling stories through movement that in a lot of ways, (the athletes) are more sensitive. Teams were able to show Mackenzie that they were thinking of her."

Thompson knows firsthand the kind of camaraderie that exists among drill teams. Still, she was moved by the outpouring of support for a young girl most of them don't know.

"We've done a lot of service for other people, and you don't really think about it when you're the giver," said Thompson, choking back emotion. "It is amazing."

She was proud of her team's performance at Friday's competition, as were the athletes.

"I am who I am today because of drill," said Peyton, who didn't try out until she was a junior. "It has given me so much strength. I know what hard work is."

And although she couldn't see Todd Peyton in the stands, his daughter said he was cheering her on just like always.

"All day, I've felt him with me."

Drill team state championships results

5A MILITARY

1st, Bingham; 2nd, Hillcrest; 3rd, Lone Peak; 4th, Brighton; 5th, Hunter.

5A DANCE

1st, Lone Peak; 2nd, Bingham; 3rd, Hillcrest; 4th, Brighton; 5th, Hunter.

5A KICK

1st, Bingham; 2nd, Hillcrest; 3rd, Lone Peak; 4th, Northridge; 5th, Brighton.

5A OVERALL

1st, Bingham; 2nd, Hillcrest; 3rd, Lone Peak; 4th, Brighton; 5th, Hunter.

4A MILITARY

1st, Bountiful; 2nd, Bonneville; 3rd, Dixie; 4th, Logan; 5th, Maple Mountain.

4A DANCE

1st, Bountiful; 2nd, Bonneville; 3rd, Dixie; 4th, Maple Mountain; 5th, Olympus.

4A KICK

1st, Bountiful; 2nd, Dixie; 3rd, Bonneville; 4th, Maple Mountain; 5th, Logan.

4A OVERALL

1st, Bountiful; 2nd, Bonneville; 3rd, Dixie; 4th, Maple Mountain; 5th, Logan.

3A MILITARY

1st, Cedar; 2nd, Canyon View; 3rd, Bear River; 4th, Wasatch; 5th, Richfield.

3A DANCE

1st, Cedar; 2nd, Canyon View; 3rd, Bear Vier; 4th, Emery; 5th, Wasatch.

3A KICK

1st, Cedar; 2nd, Canyon View; 3rd, Bear River; 4th, Juan Diego; 5th, Emery.

3A OVERALL

1st, Cedar; 2nd, Canyon View; 3rd, Bear River; 4th, Wasatch; 5th, Emery.

2A MILITARY

1st, South Sevier; 2nd, Millard; 3rd, Kanab; 4th, North Summit; 5th, Gunnison.

2A DANCE

1st, Millard; 2nd, South Sevier; 3rd, Kanab; 4th, North Summit; 5th, South Summit.

2A KICK

1st, South Sevier; 2nd, Millard; 3rd, North Summit; 4th, Kanab; 5th, Gunnison.

2A OVERALL

1st, South Sevier; 2nd, Millard; 3rd, Kanab; 4th, North Summit; 5th, South Summit.

1A MILITARY

1st, Duchesne; 2nd, Piute; 3rd, Tabiona; 4th, Rich; 5th, St. Joseph.

1A DANCE

1st, Duchesne; 2nd, Piute; 3rd, Tabiona; 4th, Altamont; 5th, St. Joseph.

1A KICK

1st, Duchesne; 2nd, Altamont; 3rd, Piute; 4th, St. Joseph; 5th, Tabiona.

1A OVERALL

1st, Duchesne; 2nd, Piute; 3rd, Tabiona; 4th, Altamont; 5th, St. Joseph.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com