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The choral group had a school-record score of 325 to claim its fourth consecutive Class 2A/1A title at the May 4 OSAA high school choir state championships in Newberg

COURTESY PHOTO: JIM STEELE - Members of the choral group Excelsior -- (back row, left to right) director Rebecca Steele, Ethan Banister, Keiya Young, Raquel May, Dani Smith, Hannah Stark, Luke Van Sickle, Caleb Matias, Taylor Banister, accompanist Kelly Bard, (front row, left to right) Megan Hankland, Kaiah Gackle, Kira Birch, Lauren Brown, Hadden Stark, Natalie Sale, Breanna Steele, Ashlynn Kerekffy, and Tayler Hankland -- placed first at the OSAA Class 2A/1A high school choir state championships for the fourth year in a row.North Clackamas Christian School's choral group Excelsior rose above the competition to clinch a fourth consecutive title in the Class 2A/1A division at the May 4 OSAA Choir State Championships at George Fox University in Newberg.

NCCS' choir features 17 high school singers and three junior high school singers, who performed for a three-judge panel before closing out the competition with a sight reading test.

Excelsior drew division-leading scores of 91 from two of the judges, an 89 from the third judge, as well as a division-leading score of 54 in sight reading for an overall winning score of 325.

Lowell High School's Accents finished second at 313, while Veritas of Newberg (310), Sheridan (301), and Southwest Christian of Beaverton (301) rounded out the top five.

NCCS's score of 325 set a school record in state meet competition, breaking the previous mark of 324 set in 2017.

"We didn't care if we won," senior Myles Nelson said. We knew we had already won in our hearts."

Here are additional comments from some of the other Excelsior members:

-- Jack Lundy, senior: "We are a family just as much as we are a choir, and we all have a mission to spread joy."

-- Jordan Pitzl, senior: "We create an atmosphere of unity, strength, and meaningful interpretation of the songs. Each and every one of these people is so intentional, so incredible, and overwhelmingly spirited. It really is an honor to sing alongside such wonderful people."

-- Megan Hankland, eighth grade: "What makes this choir so different from some other choirs is our hearts. Every person in the group is focused on God, and our mission is to share Him through our music. It's something really special, and I wouldn't trade it for a million first-place trophies."

-- Olivia Watt, junior: "I sing because through it, I can glorify God and that is one of the most special and fulfilling moments you could ever have."

Choir director Rebecca Steele has helped guide NCCS's choir to five state titles in the past seven seasons.

"All of this would not be possible without my incredibly talented assistant and accompanist, Kelly Bard," Steele said. "She brings life to the music through her skills at the piano and has been my 'right-hand man' from the start.

"This choir blesses me beyond words as they sing with one heart and voice. They have each blessed my life far beyond the classroom. Some students I have taught since kindergarten and I can see their tiny faces in my heart and mind as we sing.

"Whether I have met them last year or 13 years ago, I could not be prouder of how these students stood together at the state championships to express their heart in song and try to change the world even just a little. They were already champions in my book, but now it's official statewide."

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