State high school drill team champs on probation, after panel finds team guilty of breaking rules

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MIDVALE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Copper Hills High School’s drill team is in the spotlight but for all the wrong reasons.  Some claim the current state champions cheated to win their title. 

While the drill drama may seem silly to some, state regulators are not dancing around the allegations.

Tuesday, representatives from several high schools showed up at the Utah High School Activities Association to debate whether or not the Copper Hills Drill Team broke rules when it swept the 5A state tournament in February.

Some runners up, like Bingham High School, are claiming the team charmed the judges with more than their dancing.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t an even playing field this year as rules were broken,” said Jamyn Miller, Head Coach for Bingham Drill.

The concerns come after catching wind that the Copper Hills Drill coach had private conversations with judges the day before competing in order to gain advantage.  At a hearing with the UHSAA, Tuesday, the Copper Hills coach admitted to those conversations but says they, in no way, influenced the outcome.

“I have done everything to uphold the rules and would do nothing to circumvent the rules,” affirmed Shannon Mortensen, Head Coach for Copper Hills Drill.

Other charges claim Copper Hills broke rules by changing their costumes and editing their music between the regional and state competitions. 

“There was percussion [added to music] for a much greater effect and a dramatic ending,” said Chris Richards-Khong, Principal for Bingham High School.

UHSAA rules state that “no alterations are allowed” in music, costuming, or choreography except for 16 total counts.

Bingham and Brighton filed official protests during the tournament, but Copper Hills still won.  The schools’ principal says that is because they did not cheat.

“I absolutely stand by my coach.  She would do nothing to jeopardize a state championship,” said Todd Quarnberg, Principal of Copper Hills High School.

Ultimately, a UHSAA panel came up with the following verdict and implications:

  • Determined Copper Hills Drill music was indeed altered between the regional and state competitions

  • Decided there was insufficient evidence that Coach Mortensen ‘engaged in undo influence with the judges’ but that her actions indicated she had also ‘failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety’

  • Determined there was no change in Copper Hill Drill’s costume between the regional and state competitions

  • Decided to fine Copper Hills High School $1,500 and to suspend Coach Mortensen from attending the first competition of next season.  Both she and the school are on ‘probation.’

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