The East Lincoln High School Varsity Winter Guard has continued with their success. Like everything that’s been related to schools this year, COVID has made both practices and competitions difficult. 

“We’ve managed to pull together a virtual season,” Rachel Frye, who has been a coach since 2004 said. “We competed in Winter Guard International, which is the highest competing circuit nationally.”

This year, the teams had the option to just showcase their talents and have fun or compete. The East Lincoln team chose to challenge themselves and compete. After their first competition, the team was moved up from the Scholastic A class, which is where the vast majority of high schools compete, to Scholastic Open, which Frye said is a true testament to how hard the girls have worked. In North Carolina, there are only five other teams in the open class. 

The show is called, “Marrakesh Menagerie,” is a tale told in a Moroccan marketplace. Masks were incorporated into the costuming. The exotic set is complete with carpets that team members incorporate into the routine. Choreographed by Justin McDougal and Trent Williams. Both McDougal and Williams who were brought in through connections in the band world.

“We had a need for a new technical instructor,” Frye said. “Trent, who is a fourth-grade teacher through the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District has performed and competed at the highest level as has Justin, who is from this area. He attended North Lincoln High School. They are both insanely talented and can bring the absolute best out of our kids.”

On Saturday, the team was performing the routine in the gym at East Lincoln High School. It was being filmed to be sent to the semi-final round of the Winter Guard International competition. This is the first time the team has made it through into the semi-finals.

“Crafting an East Lincoln competitive production requires the perfect combination of elements,” Williams said. “These include a memorable concept, a unique soundtrack, intriguing set and costume design, as well as choreography and staging that truly highlight the strength of the members. We are so grateful to have a strong design team and supportive parents at East who consistently help bring my brainchild to life year after year.”

McDougal added that in a time when educators are being told that they can’t do things because of the pandemic, he was glad that the Cheval team was able to focus on what they could do - teach, be forward-thinking and still provide each of the students with a balanced and rewarding season. 

Lana Isenhour, who is a senior this year and has been a member of the guard through all four years at East Lincoln. She said that when she heard that the team had been moved up to Scholastic Open class in what will be her last year with the guard, she was speechless. 

“Guard means so much to me,” she said. “These past four years have been the best years of my life. The people I have met and spent a lot of time with are not just my friends but my family. I love them all to death, and I wouldn’t trade any of the memories we’ve made for the world. I’ve grown so much physically and mentally. It’s made me a better person and who I am today. As I am a senior this year, I’m going miss this program and this guard so much. This season has been very challenging for all of us, but I think it’s shown us how hard we can push ourselves to be better in color guard and our daily lives. I am so glad that I get to spin for another season.”

A junior this year and the team co-captain, the guard gives Sarah Frye an escape from reality and focusing on something she loves and cares about. It also provides her a second family that she can rely on. 

“It has been extremely different from previous seasons,” she said. “We all have learned to adapt to the constant changes and challenges that have been given to us. No matter what the situation was we always stuck together and pushed through. This season has really taught me to enjoy the little moments and not to take our time together for granted.” 

Co-captain Laura Zacharauskas is a sophomore this year. To her, the guard is her second home and the people on my team are her family. 

Guard has allowed me to have incredible opportunities to perform in front of thousands and travel to many new places including Atlanta and Dayton,” she said. “Not only have I gained amazing memories, but I’ve also grown mentally through these past years. It’s made me a more open-minded and mature person. I’ve also gained many organization and time management skills. This season was definitely challenging with COVID as it’s been for many teams this year. With our season getting cut short last year I learned to not take anything for granted and that has made me want to push even harder this year to make our team excel. Getting promoted into open class just showed how much our dedication and hard work paid off in the end. I am excited to be a part of this new chapter in the East Lincoln guard in open class.”

The East Lincoln Band Program lives by the acronym PRIDE Matthew Brusseau, ELHS Band director explained.

“This stands for passion, respect, intensity, dedication, and emotion,” he said “The Cheval guard members have been models of our PRIDE regardless of the obstacles that they have faced this year. It is because of their PRIDE that they were bumped up in WGI classification, it is because of their PRIDE that they have proven themselves successful, it is because of their PRIDE that these students continue to work to be their best selves. I am so proud of each of these performers for living with PRIDE every day. I have no doubt that our program will continue to flourish.”

The East Lincoln High School Cheval Winter Guard performs “Marrakesh Menagerie” at the East Lincoln gym on Saturday. The routine was being filmed to be sent to the semi-final round of the Winter Guard International competition. This is the first time the team has made it through into the semi-finals.

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