It’s a rite of spring at Lake Highlands High School as time-honored as the first crack of a bat and as tension-filled as extra innings.

Drill-team tryouts are in full swing again, and the hopes and aspirations of yet another group of energetic teenage girls are hanging in the balance.

Don’t be fooled by the costumes and makeup. Becoming a Lake Highlands Highlandette is grueling, serious business.

“There’s a lot to the process that people don’t really know about,” said junior Emily Everhart. “You put in a lot of hours and energy doing this. We work just as hard as the athletes.”

In Everhart’s case, she worked hard enough to earn the coveted role of captain for the 1993-94 school year during officer tryouts March 31.

Everhart beat out 10 girls for the drill team’s top spot, while four others – Meredith Newbold, Keshia Jenkins, Natalie Huffman and Amy Shine – were chosen as lieutenants.

The best, however, is yet to come. May 8 is Decision Day at the school, when 100 girls will try to dance, kick, split and smile their way onto the 60-spot roster during a day-long tryout at the Lake Highlands gym.

They’re all hoping to gain the attention of Vicki Coleman, a Plano native now in her fourth year as the Highlandettes’ sponsor.

“Being a Highlandette is a pretty prestigious thing at Lake Highlands,” Coleman says.

“We put a lot of pressure on the girls to be mature, young women and very responsible students. This isn’t something that’s taken lightly.”

Coleman left “demanding” out of the description, but that’s obvious just by looking at the Highlandettes’ schedule. This year’s squad performed at all football and several basketball games, summer camps and winter competitions, then held its annual spring show April 16-17.

Next up was an April 24 fund-raiser for Julie Tisdale, a 1989-90 Highlandette who was named Miss Richardson and needed money to compete in the Miss Texas pageant.

The schedule has become so hectic that the Highlandettes, as well as teams from three Richardson high schools, have decided against entering national contests beginning next fall.

“We just decided that it was getting too hectic,” Coleman says. “We’re going to focus on school events, at least for the time being.

That way, we can give the school and our athletes a better performance.”

Everhart, a lifelong Lake Highlands resident, doesn’t mind the shortened schedule. Just winning the captain’s title has been enough to make her head spin.

“I’m so excited that it’s kind of hard to put it in words,” she says. “I had always respected the Highlandettes and never thought I would have a chance (to become captain). I was really surprised. It’s been a dream come true.”

Everhart’s role is to lead an organization that’s as old as the school itself. Lake Highlands opened 31 years ago, and the Highlandettes have been there from the beginning.

The times have changed, but the uniforms and the image have not.

“It’s always been a big tradition around here to be a Highlandette,” Coleman says. “These girls represent the school, and they do a very good job of it. A lot is expected from them.”

The rigor begins before the first tryout. Prospective members go through a day-long orientation, then participate in a morning tryout. Approximately 20 girls are eliminated after the tryout, with the final 60 pulled from afternoon competition.

Prospects are judged on kicks, danceability, audience appeal, splits and appearance by a panel that includes Coleman, judges from area drill-team companies and drill-team directors from other schools.

“It’s a tough, nerve-wracking process, but you can tell it’s worth it by the look on the girls’ faces after they’ve been chosen,” Coleman says. “It’s very rewarding.”