Madison WachelMadison Wachel grew up watching the Highlandettes perform every Friday night at Lake Highlands football games. She says she would always stop whatever she was doing to watch the halftime performance.

This year, Madison is captain of the team she spent her entire life idolizing. She finally ended up exactly where she has always hoped to be — on the 50-yard line of Wildcat-Ram Stadium.

“It is really exciting to look up and see the crowd applauding, and extremely thrilling to dance on the field,” she says.

Madison began her dance career at age 3 at Janie Christy’s Lake Highlands studio. Her years of hard work and dedication are demonstrated in her talent, but to the other 39 Highlandettes whom she leads, she is more than a skilled dancer; she is also a friend. Madison claims her biggest struggle in her new leadership role is “knowing when to be strictly the captain and when to be a friend to the team members.”

The balancing act is challenging, both socially and academically. A Highlandette’s day starts at 7 a.m. with a two and half hour practice to prepare for whatever is on the docket that week. Additionally, the officers practice every day during their final class period to rehearse for special routines. Drill team is a year-round endeavor, as the girls participate in football season, competition season and their annual end-of-year show in May.

However, the hard work is worth it to Madison, who finds value not only in performance but also in practice.

“Highlandettes has truly taught me so much about what it means to be a respectable, organized and hard working person,” she says. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I wasn’t a ’Dette.”

Next year, Madison will attend Baylor University and is planning to study speech pathology. She also will try out for the Baylor pom squad to nourish her passion for dance.

Until then, you can spot Madison at any LH football game — including tonight’s home game against J.J. Pearce — by looking for her white hat. Any other time, find her by listening for her signature laughter that never seems to cease.