Anyone who thinks that flag corps is simply throwing objects in the air and catching them obviously has never been to a winter guard competition.
Several high and middle school teams from as far away as Virginia and Tennessee converged on North Lincoln High School Saturday for the Carolina Indoor Performance Associationâ€™s Winter Guard Fest.
â€œIt takes a lot of time, hard work and dedication,â€ said North Lincoln instructor Selena Kerr. â€œItâ€™s really what the kids work toward all year.â€
While most people believe the work ends for most teams after marching band, the real season is only beginning. In actuality, color guard and winter guard are completely separate things.
Color guard is when the corps performs with the band, while winter guard is when the corps performs a three to four minute floor routine.
While performing with the band is fun for most of the athletes, many feel more rewarded when competing solo.
â€œThe performance level is so much more intense,â€ said East Lincoln senior Shenna Stansell. â€œYou are right there on the floor and (the judges) are right there.â€
It is that intensity that has had the competing county teams â€” East and North Lincoln, Lincolnton and Lincolnton Middle â€” preparing since the beginning of the year, practicing up to 20 hours a week.
The work all culminates in April when several teams will be competing at nationals in Dayton, Ohio.
While catching flags, swords and rifles are the noticeable elements to an audience, it is only a small part of the performance.
Interpreting the song from the tips of their fingers to the points of their toes is essential to the routine.
â€œI told the kids itâ€™s 90 percent body and movement and itâ€™s 10 percent flag,â€ said East Lincoln instructor Rachel Wood.
Worrying about oneâ€™s own performance is not an option either, however. Working together in unison is also one of the most important elements of winter guard.
â€œMy team is my family,â€ said Lincolnton Middle participant Shelby Wilkinson. â€œWhen weâ€™re out there weâ€™ve got to constantly keep an eye on each other.â€
Though team cohesiveness may bring the teams closer together, it also creates very nerve-racking moments trying not to let your teammates down.
The same can be said about the instructors, who have to nervously watch from the sidelines.
For East Lincoln instructor Caren Kimbrell, watching her kids is more nerve-racking than when she was a performer.
â€œAt least if its me out there I had control,â€ she said.
The teams, however have found some clever ways to ignite team unity and combat those tense moments.
East Lincoln has its own team mascot, a fuzzy little pink pig named Omelette, who brings them luck during competition.
North Lincolnâ€™s team has its own pre-show ritual to get rid of the jitters and boost team energy.
â€œWe used to eat Twizzlers, but now we all eat Pixie Sticks,â€ said sophomore Justin McDougal. â€œIt gives us a rush.â€
However for many of the students the true rush comes after doing a great routine.
â€œIf Iâ€™ve been working on something for a few days and I finally get it down Iâ€™m like â€˜yes!â€, said Wilkinson.
Lincolnton Middle School placed second out of five in the prep class category, East Lincoln placed third out of five in the High School A Intermediate category and Lincolnton placed second and North Lincoln placed third out of six in the High School A category.
by Mary Williams