Taylor Hoverman believes in her teammates.
As the 14 members of the Fort Mill High School Dance Team piled into a half-size bus to drive to the mountains of Tennessee for a competition, Hoverman was excited about the team's opportunity.
"I know it's cliché, but this will bring us closer together," she said.
Hoverman, the senior captain of the dance team, and her teammates, competed at the Smoky Mountain Christmas Classic outside Gatlinburg, Tenn., last weekend and won first place in the Varsity Jazz category.
This is the biggest trip the team has taken in years, and the girls knew it would provide good experience, as well as a measure of the team's abilities, Hoverman said.
"We competed at Carowinds, but this is a very big event," Hoverman said. "These girls have the competitiveness, the ability to compete. They just haven't had the opportunity."
The dance team's performance in the Carowinds competition yielded a technical excellence award, a result they reproduced in Tennessee.
"I'm so pleased to be part of such a hard working dance team," said junior Kayla Eikenberry after the group's big win. "I'm glad our work paid off."
Junior Ashton Celec, who has been dancing for 11 years, said this trip means a lot for her both as a dancer and as a teammate.
"We usually just cheer at games," Celec said. "Now we have the chance to show it to a larger group of people."
The team was gone for three days and competed against 13 teams, according to Fort Mill High dance teacher Liz Dukes.
When the team returned, the girls started getting ready to host a fundraiser, Breakfast with Santa, to help pay for their trip. The breakfast will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 20, at the high school. It will include games, craft vendors, raffles, waffles and performances by the dance team, Dukes said.
"The dancers will do Fort Mill High School Rockette numbers and they'll be there waiting on the tables," Dukes said.
Of course, Santa will be there, she said.
"They're really excited about this," Dukes said about the dancers' Christmas event as well as the competition. "They are really hard workers. They've been fundraising all year. They're a really great group."
Dukes said this is the first year since she has been at the school that the team went on a long distance trip to compete. Tickets for "Breakfast with Santa" are $8 for adults and $5 for children. Call 547-7736.