Feb 23, 2017 09:42AM ● Published by Ashley Pape
The competitive heat is on, and the Carroll winter guard has its (non-firing) rifles blazing.
Last year, the Carroll winter guard spun into the spotlight, making finals for the first time at the Winter Guard International (WGI) regional competition in Dallas, an event that draws dozens of high school color guards from Oklahoma to Mississippi.
The group of girls and a boy then made history again, advancing to the pinnacle of what’s known as “the sport of the arts,” the WGI World Championship in Dayton, Ohio. For students involved in winter guard and percussion activities, WGI is where top-tier talent comes to perform. The world championship boasts more than 500 of the best color guards, percussion ensembles and wind groups, and more than 12,000 young performers compete for their own world championship.
The Carroll winter guard made the semi finals last year, ranked among the top 50 in the world. This year, the guard, which is now more than 50 members strong, has its sights set on making a return appearance on the global stage.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
In the fall, the color guard performs with the Carroll Dragon band during football halftime shows and in competitions. After football season, the guard’s flags, rifles and sabres don’t get stored away until next year; they just get taken for a different spin.
“In color guard, the band plays the music and the guard is the icing on the cake,” explains Daphne Adkison, Carroll’s color guard and winter guard director. “Winter guard is its own unique entity.”
Envision a costumed troupe of dancers performing on a screen-printed vinyl floor in a high school gym—no goalposts, scoreboards or shiny instruments in sight. Flags, rifles and sabres whip through the air as guard members sway, strut and spin to bring music and themes to life.
“They’re spinning and dancing at the same time and using their costumes and facial expressions to tell a story,” Adkison says. “They’re always telling a story.”
Carroll has three winter guards: a cadet guard, comprised of students from fourth through eighth grade; a JV guard and a varsity guard, comprised of high school students. Auditions are held each May for boys and girls. Those who compete in color guard in the fall have a place in winter guard, but they must first audition to be on varsity or JV. For those with talent, grade doesn’t matter; several freshmen made this year’s varsity guard.
With the winter guard’s recent acclaim, Adkison has seen a renewed interest in the sport. When she took over as director two years ago, Carroll had 14 winter guard members. The program has nearly quadrupled in size.
“It was hard for me in the beginning because kids weren’t really interested in being part of the program,” she says. “My first goal was to make it something students were proud to be part of.”
Adkison is well on her way after the Carroll winter guard’s history-making appearances at regionals and the world championship last year. “The Carroll winter guard is really evolving,” she says. “It’s catching on and is something we’re all proud to be part of.”
Building a nationally ranked program is an incredible honor for Adkison, but she says the most rewarding part of her job is seeing her students proud of what they have accomplished. If students used to shy away from mentioning they were in the guard, now it’s something they brag about.
The guard’s most recent opportunity to gain bragging rights happened earlier this month—the WGI Dallas regional competition on February 18. More than 40 high school guards competed for the chance to make it to the 40th annual world championship in April. Adkison and her winter guard have a sabre-sharp focus on getting there.
ARTISTRY AND ATHLETICISM IN MOTION
This year’s varsity show is titled “A Brand New Me.” Performed to Alicia Keys’ song of the same name, the performance is about recognizing the beauty within. “The theme we want to convey is that it’s really hard to be a young adult,” Adkison says, “but everyone brings important qualities to life.”
Adkison asked the guard to share some of the worst words they had been called and to recall a time when they felt like they weren’t good enough. The exercise helped the winter guard build a foundation for “A Brand New Me.” They showcased the words and themes on the floor and on the flags. The result? A visually powerful show that transitions from monochrome to bright and colorful, bringing the theme of self-confidence to life.
It took Adkison and her lead choreographer months to develop the show and concept. It’s a process that first involves poring over songs and deciding on a theme, and then incorporating the flags and costumes into the show. And then, of course, there’s the actual performance, which is best described as a blend of sport and art.
“Winter guard is super athletic,” Adkison says. “They’re running, doing cartwheels and all kinds of dance routines, and a lot of that is underneath the flag.”
Once winter guard members learn new tricks with the flag, rifle or sabre, they push to learn more. Adkison describes their work ethic as “relentless,” recognizing each member’s commitment to being the best in the activity. This ambition extends beyond the varsity guard; Adkison says the JV and cadet guards model the behavior of the older kids. “All of them bring their A-game every day,” she says.
As varsity captain, senior Grace Crews recognizes the importance of bringing out the best in the winter guard and setting the expectation for the season. “It’s cool because everybody looks up to me and expects the most out of me,” she says. “I get to be the example for the season.”
For eight years, Crews has participated in color guard and winter guard. Competing on the floor is a chance to showcase her skills and to do what she loves. Crews hopes to continue her passion after graduation with the Santa Clara Vanguard, a world-class competitive drum and bugle corps. “When I auditioned, I was hoping to get a call back,” she says. “Well, I received that call!”
Until the next step in her color guard journey, though, Crews is focused on finishing strong at Carroll—and setting the guard up for continued success.
“This program has gone places it’s never gone before,” Crews says. “From here on out, it’s going to get better and better.”
Varsity Winter Guard
- Grace Crews
- Hannah McNeill
- Hailey Hodges
- Nicole Schellenberger
- Chloe Moore
- Taylor Harslem
- Jared DeLeon
- Cassie Saffarian
- Shivani Challakonda
- Jenna Eads
- Elizabeth File
- Sydney Lewandowski
- Allison Li
- Ivy Hall
- Sarah Rose
- Natalie Theonnes
- Deanna Kendrick
- Sophie Harston
- Camille Carson
- Katherine Loomis
- Katie Karau
- Stephanie Felberbaum
- Olivia Hooper
- Belyn Beville
- Haley Hahn
- Megan Genetti
- Sophia Rasmussen
- Victoria Satcher
- Ana Prince
- Sally Hatfield
- Azili Omar
- Addie Loredo
- Gracie Weber
- Amy Head