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Local girl from MHS, now high-kicking in Kilgore

Patty Hullett
The Mirror
Kali Rochford (middle) performing in a football halftime show.

Editor's note: -- On Saturday, Aug. 26, Midlothian's Kali Rochford achieved one of her life dreams, making Officer status for the Kilgore College Rangerettes.

Nineteen-year-old Kali Marie Rochford is a proud Midlothian High School graduate of 2019. Not only is she an excited sophomore student about to begin her second year of studies at Kilgore College in East Texas, but she is also a member of the world-renown “Kilgore Rangerettes”.

Kali is the daughter of Travis and Kari Rochford, a family that moved to Midlothian from San Diego, California, in their only child’s seventh grade year in school.

A young girl with a passion for dance

Kali became enthralled with dancing when she started as a pupil at “On The Move” dance studio in Midlothian (about the same time that her family had relocated to Texas), and she’s been dancing ever since.

“I was about 13 when I started to take dance lessons in my new hometown,” Kali said. “I knew right away that I loved it so much that I poured all my time into learning as much of the techniques of dance that I could.”

From those training beginnings, Kali became a four-year member of the MHS Pantherettes, serving as captain both her junior and senior years (2017-2019). Her favorite styles of dance are contemporary and jazz.

Kali shares, “One of the things I remember most about my days at MHS, is the early morning practices with my drill team, and the vast amount of hard work we all put into the Pantherette team that I will love and cherish forever.”

She continues, “I have to admit that my favorite teacher from MHS is Mrs. Worley, and she was special because she had a way of individually recognizing potential in each of us and helping to bring that out in all her students.”

Along with drill team and her high school, Kali said she loved participating in theater productions, including "OZ" and “Grease,” “which were such fun shows to be a part of!”

The best thing about being a college student, Kali says, is having the opportunity to branch out on her own to find her life’s path while always having the supportive guidance of her parents. Kali remarks, “Last school year, 2019-2020, it was such an honor to be selected into the Rangerette line at Kilgore College.”

A lady with a vision – Gussie Nell Davis

Gussie Nell Davis, a very progressive dance teacher back in her days, hailed from Farmersville, Texas. She received a master's degree in science from the University of Southern California in 1938. Kilgore College President Dean B. E. Masters hired Davis the following year to form a group that would keep football spectators in their seats during halftime, rather than consuming alcohol and brawling under the stands. Masters had an additional goal of increasing the college's female enrollment – and both of his ideas worked beautifully.

The group, called the Kilgore College Rangerettes, first performed in September 1940. They were the first all-girls dance-drill team in the United States to perform as entertainers during the half-time periods of college football games. Davis was the group's sole choreographer until 1948, when other assistants were hired to assist her. A true disciplinarian, Davis built the Rangerettes into a self-confident and talented squad of young ladies. She directed routines that were generally more athletic and aerobic, and the squads she trained became well known across the U.S. as their popularity grew over the years. Davis retired in 1979 but remained the group's godmother until her death on Dec. 21, 1993. She never married or had any children of her own: She claimed, the Rangerettes were always her child.

Kali says, “My favorite thing about being a part of the Rangerettes organization is making memories and lasting friendships, while being able to continue my passion for dancing. In my very first year on the Rangerettes team, we were honored to be invited to perform at the Birmingham International Tattoo Expo in England, and also, we performed at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Some of our engagements were curtailed, of course, because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, but hopefully things will be looking up this year at college.”

Adapting to become a success

According to Kali, the only downside of college is missing home when she is away at school. She says, “While Rangerettes leaves little time to fester in this feeling, it comforts me to know how very close I am with my mom and dad. So, any time I’m away from Midlothian, it’s bittersweet, because I know I have their unwavering support. Their continual backing helps me advance my future goals and, at the same time, I get to be a part of such a beautiful organization.”

As a new school year begins at Kilgore College, Kali is focusing on her studies of fine arts and business. When she does have some spare time, she enjoys hobbies like art; she admits she loves to paint and create digital art. She also likes sewing and giving old vintage clothing new life.

“Something strange about me that not many people would know is that I’m a pretty shy person. Most folks don’t realize this quiet quality about me, because when it’s time for me to perform, I flip a switch and all the shyness goes away. Thankfully, my most telling characteristic is the way my faith defines me. My love for my family and the values they have set in motion for me, lead me to press-on, regardless of any obstacles in my life’s pathway,” Kali shares.

Kali Rochford with flag in background.