By Kristin Burnell
You might recognize Sacred Heart University’s Winter Guard from their flag waving, rifle and saber tossing, and dancing along to the University Band at home football games.
However, it’s in their winter season where they put their talent, practice, determination and resilience to the test.
“The Winter Guard is similar to what you would see at halftime,” said sophomore captain Brianna Kelley. “However, we use pre-recorded music rather than the band.”
From February to April, the Guard competes locally and nationally in around seven to 10 competitions—with their most difficult competition being the Winter Guard International (WGI) World Championships in Dayton, Ohio. Last year, they finished seventh place in the finals of the international competition.
“Last year was the third consecutive year that our Winter Guard finished as a finalist at WGI World Championships,” said Assistant Director of Bands Andrew Kolar. “This was a huge accomplishment for our program and the members themselves.”
The division is broken down into three classes: A Class, Open Class, and World Class. Due to the Guard’s years of success at the competition and being a finalist in the A Class for three seasons in a row, the have been promoted to Open Class.
The Open Class consists of students under the age of 23. To be in this Class, the team must include more tricks and have a more intricate design for their performance.
“Being in the Open Class presents an exciting challenge for the design and instructional staff because we are judged against better competition and are also judged by higher standards,” said Kolar.
The team has already started to plan for the upcoming season. In preparation for the new year, they must get together all of the equipment for their routine. This includes: flags, rifles, sabers and the floor they use for performances.
“The floor is like a prop,” said Kelley. “You get one for every year.”
The Guard has entered a competition again to win a free, custom-printed floor that’s worth over $3,000. It’s a crucial element of their performance and is used at every competition. Anyone can vote for them at http://wshe.es/xEqBCWUS.
“We got second place last year, which means we got half of the money towards the floor,” said Kelley. “The rest we paid ourselves.”
For the Winter Guard, a typical practice schedule consists of six hours a week, plus six more hours of rehearsal on Saturdays.
“The best part about the team is all the friendships and memories you make,” said Kelley. “Long practices get tough, but it is worth it because we have so many friends. We’re a bunch of goofballs.”
The Winter Guard asks for support by coming to Sacred Heart’s home football games and by voting for them in the contest.
They look forward to another great year, where they can continue to grow.
“Seventh place at Worlds was a huge accomplishment for our program and the members themselves. It shows a dedication to their craft and a level of excellence that we hope to continue to build upon,” said Kolar. “We have an awesome group of students this year and I’m very excited to see what our first year in Open Class brings us.”