CLOVER -- If there were ever doubts about whether Clover High was able to compete in the 4A division, they're gone now.
On Friday, the Clover Choraliers, Clover High School's premier chorus group, won the 2008 South Carolina Choral Concert Festival in Columbia, bringing home the school's third state championship this school year. The football team and band took top honors in the fall.
"To have won three this year is just tremendous," said Ron Wright, Clover High principal. "It just seems like it's sort of all come together for us in this one year."
This is only Clover's second year in 4 A -- a move they made because of school growth.
"We knew it was going to be a whole different level of competitiveness," said Richard Derderian, who was a sophomore when the change was made.
But over the last two years, the Choraliers and other Clover groups have shown they're capable of competing.
Friday's win was extra meaningful for Derderian, now a junior, who helped the football team win its first state championship as a starting tight end. Off the field, he blended his bass voice with about 100 other Choraliers to win the Concert Festival with a tough repertoire that included "Followers of the Lamb" by Deitterich" and "Se Per Havervi, Oime" by Lauridsen.
"It was just a great feeling because we worked so hard," Derderian said. "Every Monday night we're in here from 7 to 9 p.m."
They also practice for an hour and a half five days a week, he said.
"I consider myself very lucky to be at this school," he said.
Choral director Jay Forrest credits the students' hard work for the win.
"It's a dose of student talent, maybe a dose of teacher drive, but it's 99 percent just hard work," Forrest said.
The judges took notice of that too and commended them for their hard work, he said.
The choral program has gotten to the point where the students feel they're competing with themselves and their past performances, Forrest said.
Over the years, the Choraliers have earned several first place wins, including multiple state championships.
"Our expectations have become ourselves and keeping up with what we did the year before and the year before that," he said.
Those expectations are professional expectations, Wright said.
"When you go to a Choralier concert and you hear them perform, you're going and hearing legitimate professional music entertainment," he said. "They get a lot of folks that come to their concerts that don't have kids in the program. They aren't parents -- they're just coming to hear really good musical presentations."
Forrest deserves a lot of the credit for molding the students into skilled singers, Wright said.
"He's just a consummate teacher and musician," Wright said. "Being a music educator myself, I just know what a high level they're performing at. In many ways, they and the band perform better than some college"
Betty Riddle, a long-time supporter of the Choraliers and former Clover superintendent, said she always enjoys the group's polished performances.
"I think it's something an awful lot of us look forward to, as witnessed by the auditorium being full for all of their performances," she said.
Their talent draws people from Charlotte and Gastonia into town for the concerts, she said.
"It's a really wonderful group of kids and Jay Forrest is very, very talented musician," Riddle said.
Riddle is excited about Clover's triple statewide win.
"It's been a great year to be from Clover," Riddle said. "This caps it off."