With their emotional show “Fly On,” the CCHS Varsity Winter Guard is soaring through the 2017-2018 season, reaching new heights with their high-scoring performances.
Of the three competitions that the varsity winter guard has attended, they have received first place at competitions held at Flanagan High School and Olympic Heights High School. The varsity winter guard is already off to a strong start, hoping to improve from their last season during which they placed first once.
The show, performed to the song “O” by Coldplay, gracefully portrays the freedom experienced by birds mid-flight. The song choice was inspired by Adam Rippon’s now famous program from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics men’s free skate, in which “O” was featured.
Practices began back in December, with the varsity winter guard meeting from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays before competitions. The members have put in many hours since the show was developed to bring precision and passion to each performance and run-through.
“Behind our placement as one of the best guards in the county lies countless hours of sweat and tears and a family that never gives in,” senior Hugh Dennin said. “I am very proud of how far our program has come from last year and there is still so much more room for us to grow as we complete our season.”
“Behind our placement as one of the best guards in the county lies countless hours of sweat and tears and a family that never gives in,”
At the opening of the show, each guard member is showcased as they break free from the group and glide “like a bird” into their next position. Afterwards, equipment manager Paulina Manta has the opening flag solo, co-captain Thomas Caetano takes on a sabre solo, and co-captain Alex Porras performs a performs a rifle solo.
One aspect of the show that sets the CCHS Varsity Winter Guard apart is their all-sabre feature, in which every varsity guard member has to perform a blade triple. According to the guard members, this is no easy feat.
“I’m new on the top line of the varsity team this year, and we open the second half of the show with a sabre toss I’ve never done before,” Equipment Captain Paulina Manta said. “It’s been hard for me to get it right, but when I do catch it strongly it’s so rewarding.”
However, blade triples do not come close to the greatest difficulty that the winter guard has faced this season. Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) that killed 17, including 14-year-old color guard member Gina Montalto, the winter guard community has been leaning on each other for support through the shock and sadness. The usual friendly competition has been replaced with mourning and solidarity, as winter guard members from across South Florida dance in Montalto’s memory. Before each competition, the members of both the varsity and junior varsity winter guard teams pin maroon and silver ribbons to their costumes as a tribute to the lives lost.
“It’s a little difficult to put the feeling into words,” varsity winter guard captain Alex Porras said. “All you had to do was be at our competition last Saturday, hosted by Stoneman, where South Florida Winter Guard Association held a tribute for [Montalto] and the other 16 lives lost. There was not a single dry eye in that gym.”
For Porras and the rest of the guard, the tragedy was a sharp reminder not to take anything for granted.
“Since the shooting happened, coming to rehearsal has felt less like an obligation to me and more like a privilege,” Porras said. “I could see the drastic change in my team.”
Their next competition will take place at Park Vista High School this weekend, and a week later they will perform at the Orlando Regional competition. After, they only have the South Florida Winter Guard Association Championships at the Rick Case Arena before their tentative trip to Ohio for the Winter Guard International Championships.
Photo by Ben Milgram