Five years ago, Angela Youngs and Chloe Davis had a bond that went way beyond volleyball.
As teammates preparing to start their careers at Campbell County High School, they also had a common interest off the court that put them on a unique path and eventually took them from coast to coast.
Davis and Youngs became teammates as seventh graders at Sage Valley Junior High School and played together throughout their time there. Volleyball made them fast friends, but it was their love for singing that brought them together for the first time.
“In seventh grade, I met her in choir and she had a really pretty voice. After a while, she just became this ball of energy and I loved it,” Davis said. “I remember her as being a little quiet, but I wouldn’t describe her that way now. … I have this big personality sometimes, so I can get people out of their shyness.”
They both came from families of singers, so neither were strangers to choir when they started.
At times they were a little embarrassed, because choir wasn’t the “coolest” activity, Youngs said, but that didn’t last long. They quickly realized that there is no shame in doing something you enjoy, especially if you’re good at it.
During their first year of choir together, Davis and Youngs were selected to audition for the Organization of American Kodály Educators’ (OAKE) national conference, and they both nailed it.
The audition wasn’t in person. Hopefuls had to record themselves performing and send it in. Making the cut meant that the seventh graders were headed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the OAKE national conference.
They were roommates for the week leading up to the performance and did what one might expect of 12- to 13-year olds away from their parents for the first time — they stayed up late talking and watching movies.
During the day, they rehearsed for a performance at the end of the week. Davis and Youngs were two of more than 100 girls who sang in front of a packed auditorium to conclude the memorable trip.
“Everyone from every state comes and then you have one big performance. It’s pretty good,” Youngs said. “(The venue) is big and it’s nice. You’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen something like this.’”
This selection process continued for two years more years, and each time Davis and Youngs emerged as among the Gillette singers chosen to perform on a national stage. Their talents took them to the OAKE nationals in Minnesota, California and Philadelphia during their three years of choir.
Split by the split
Their friendship changed after their freshman year of high school, as did many relationships in Gillette when the South Campus of Campbell County High School became Thunder Basin High School.
Instead of seeing each other every day in the halls or at volleyball practice or choir practice, now they only see each other when they bump into one another around town or at volleyball games. The two still consider each other great friends, but now it’s from a distance.
“We (stayed in contact) for a little bit, but then we kind of drifted apart, but it’s like every volleyball season, we always come back and we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, hi! How are you?’” Youngs said. “It’s always good seeing her.”
Now they’re seniors and are both varsity volleyball players. Davis is a starting hitter for Campbell County, while Youngs has been in and out of the starting lineup for Thunder Basin.
They’ve already met once this season, a game Youngs stepped into as starting setter during a three-set win over the Camels. Round two is Thursday night at CCHS.
It’s still a strange feeling for players on either side of competitions when they see their friends on the other side of the net. For Davis, it’s a thin line between competing against opponents who she wants to beat and a congenial rivalry between longtime friends.
“It’s weird, because people are like, ‘We’re going to smash them, we’re going to destroy them. Ahh, Thunder Basin!’” Davis said. “But I’m excited to play them. I think it’s a great opportunity to go against friends and that’s kind of how it always started out. You always played against your friends.”
The Camels have ratcheted up the intensity since their loss to TBHS earlier this season and Davis thinks they’re in a much better position for the rematch. CCHS has built a little momentum with two convincing wins over Laramie and Cheyenne South last weekend.
For Youngs and the Bolts, every game is a stepping stone toward a No. 1 seed at the state tournament. They are now the No. 2-ranked Class 4A team in the state, according to the WyoPreps Coaches and Media Poll, and are 18-4 after taking second at the Scottsbluff Invite last weekend.
Regardless of how close Youngs is to Davis or any of the Camels, she and the Bolts still want to prove they’re the best in town Thursday night.
“When we play the Camels, we do want to make a statement that we are the top school in Gillette,” Youngs said. “We want to come out and beat them in three.”