MHS Royal Pride Winter Guard Takes The Road Less Traveled To NTCA Championships
MHS Royal Pride Winter Guard Takes The Road Less Traveled To NTCA Championships
Two years ago the MHS Royal Pride Winter Guard finished 10th or 11th throughout the entire year of competition and failed to receive a promotion. Last season they banished that Albatross under the tutelage of new Guard Director Amanda Jacobs-Holmes. In a hard-charging, breath-stopping performance the upstart Royal Pride came from the 13th seed going toe to toe with #1 seed A Plus Excalibur of Dallas. Matching them move for move on dance, flag and weapons the Royal Pride put together their best performance of the year. For their efforts they earned a Silver medal falling just 0.8 of a point short of Gold, and left the competition floor with the only gymnasium-wide standing ovation of the night.
Enter the 2011 season. The Royal Pride had been promoted to Regional A for the previous season’s Silver Medal performance. For all, there were new goals. Stephanie Herrera had a large slate of personal growth goals to go after including, “learning Sabre, improving dance and perfecting a Quad on my rifle.” Second year Guardie Bene’ Waggoner wanted, “To improve on every piece equipment” as well. For Junior veteran Brandi Macura, “I wanted us to put on a great program and medal at Championships so that we could gain a promotion to the Scholastic division.” There were also new faces, as seven new freshman joined the Royal Pride.
Having lost their only upper classman and Captain, Alicia Mistry to graduation, last year’s mostly Sophomore Guard now became 4 Juniors, 2 Sophomores and a core of 7 new Freshmen. Any thoughts of seeing A Plus Excalibur again in competition were soon forgotten amongst the smoke and fog of developing a new and larger competitive guard with equal groups of athletes at opposite ends of the experience and skill ladder.
As in 2010 the Royal Pride started out slowly, placing 6th at Richland High School with their partially finished program, “Twists and Turns of Fate”. Though not uncommon for Guards to have unfinished programs at this point in the season, the Royal Pride program appeared out of sync. The young Guard lacked the essential cohesion that defines a team. Guard veteran Bene’ Waggoner was concerned after this first contest. “This year we didn’t have everybody on the same page and not everyone understood the importance of championships”, she noted. Senior-to-be in 2012, Brandi Macura plainly admitted, “We didn’t put on our best show, and we could’ve worked a lot harder at the practices leading up to that first contest.”
After a canceled contest, the mid point of the season saw the Royal Pride arrive at Lakeview Centennial without a competition in a month to test themselves. Veteran Gaurdie Stephanie Herrera felt that the Guard was starting to get on track and that, “ The canceled contest wouldn’t hurt the Royal Pride as long as we continued to practice”. In fact the more intense practices were working. The program was still rough but greatly improved. Individuals only, as opposed to entire portions of the program were now out of sync. New Freshman members were beginning to make significant skill strides and began blending in with Veterans on the floor. The hard work showed through as the Royal Pride topped 72 points and surged to a second place showing.
Despite the improvement in the Royal Pride’s “Twists and Turns” on the floor, fate would see the Guard fall 1 point short of a promotion to Scholastic AAA. As disappointing as this was most members of the Guard were pleased with the improvement and felt a sense of accomplishment. The performance itself also seemed to help give the Guard a little extra push as they began the month long drive toward NTCA Championships. Guard Director/Consultant Amanda Jacob-Holmes felt, “That with hard work the Guard could be in good position for Championships.”
“Fate twisted into clarity her final turns as the month of February closed and the Royal Pride made final changes in preparation for their March 26th date in the finals. They now needed a podium finish to reach Scholastic AAA. Many were nervous or anxious. Herrera was, “Excited to go into finals.”
As the final week before Championships dawned and final seedings were announced a tight cadre of competitive Guards anchored the top spots. Standing between the Royal Pride and promotion were Allen, Arlington, Keller, Lake Highlands, Midlothian, Naaman Forest, Sam Houston, and as “Fate” showed her final card, A Plus Excalibur of Dallas.
On March 26th at 7:05 the first of 13 Winter Guards took the floor in finals competition. As the evening progressed and each Guard performed the pressure mounted. Lake Highlands turned up the heat with a complicated flag and rifle program. Allen’s program titled, “Fever” showed fast paced choreography with smooth transitions between equipment (flags, rifles and sabres). Not to be outdone, Keller showing “The Keller Diamond” drew big applause with their tightly synced “flags and dance” program. Earlier in the evening Sam Houston had pulled off the ultimate whimsey with “Monopoly”. Danced directly on a Monopoly board floor, the light hearted program was a hit with the audience. Arlington upped the “drama” ante by combining their weapons and flag lines into a dramatic, seamless, “smooth as jazz” crowd pleasing performance entitled, “This is Home.” Unfazed, the smaller but highly talented A + Excalibur crew threw down yet another modern dance performance to “Black & Gold” that also showcased their top tier weapons skills. As always they brought their trademark creative flair with an undulating three tier horizontal human pyramid that drew immediate and sustained applause. Hanging tough the Royal Pride put in what would become their highest scoring performance of the season. “Twisting and Turning” the weapons line in between a flowing Flag chorus their program traced continuous designs across the entire floor as if an invisible artist was free-handing continuous, gigantic French Curves. Midlothian, the number 1 seed, capped the evening with a fast paced flag-swirling dance performance that was a collide-scope of color. They finished strong, without any equipment drops and in doing so became only the fourth Guard of the evening to finish clean in the pressure cooker that was Mansfield Gymnasium. Six other Guards had showcased rifle and sabre skills in addition to flag and dance, with Arlington, A + Excalibur and Keller the only other Guards coming home clean. The remaining Guards had only the slightest of missteps. The only question remaining for Midlothian was would it be enough for them to hold on to first place.
On the Winterguard circuit many facets come together to create a great program. The flow of the program called the “Effect” created by the movements of the guard. The precision with which the guard (ensemble) moves together as well as the difficulty of the program to name a few make judging intensely difficult. Even with four clean programs the top seven Guards were separated by 3 points at the end of the evening with only two tenths of a point separating a third place podium finish from sixth place.
In the end the combination of movement, difficulty, flow and the poetry of Arlington’s “This is Home” won the hearts of the judges. As the only Guard to top 78 points on the evening they were the clear winner. Creativity, great dance, seamless movement and transitions along with a creative flair propelled A Plus Excalibur into the second position, five tenths behind Arlington and seven tenths in front of the final podium spot. Allen’s “Fever” ran out of energy just short of the podium, garnering 76.20 points and a 6th place finish. Also vying for the last podium spot was Keller HS with “The Keller Diamond”, the most in-sync program of the evening getting a 1st place over the other Guards in (Ensemble Judging) for their precision. Yet they were in the same position as Midlothian with a clean, tremendous “flag – only” routine. Into this smallest sliver of an opportunity raced the Royal Pride, finishing with 76.40, just squeezing past Keller at 76.20, slipping a hare’s breath in front of 1st seed Midlothian at 76.30 to claim the last spot on the podium and secure their promotion to Scholastic AAA
Whereas other Guards ranked high in one or two judging categories and were lower in the rest, the Royal Pride did not win a single category. Their strength this year lay not in one or two incredible and perfect sections but rather in performing at a high level of proficiency throughout the entire program. This became the critical tipping point for the Pride in beating Keller and Midlothian as they stayed even with them in overall points average in all judging categories and beat them in equipment.
So how does that Bronze Medal feel after a long season? For Waggoner, “It felt great knowing that we had come so far and made Scholastic!” Keeping it real, Herrera joked, “It (the bronze medal) feels heavy!”
Last year the Guard learned the lessons of teamwork. This year the Guard was very slow to come together as a unit throughout the beginning and middle of the season. When the team finally figured their chemistry out at the end of February, green lights came on, rubber hit the road, afterburners got lit and gym floors scorched as they made more than a 20 point improvement in the last 5 weeks of the season. Putting together the last half of a program and polishing it in one month really proved the old adage that, “You never know what is possible until you try.”
Three year veteran Macura is already looking forward to her senior year in light of what they accomplished in the last month. “I would really love for us to work hard the whole year, do well and finish in Scholastic A… or perhaps even Scholastic Open.” Pipe dream you say? Perhaps. But with sustained focus, energy and teamwork throughout the entire season like the Royal Pride demonstrated to themselves in March this year… Hmmm? You know what they say?
“You never know what is possible until you try!”
To see the Royal Pride in action follow the link ==> http://mhsroyalprideguard.shutterfly.com/
See You On The Floor,
Cal & Kim Van Wagner