Diamond anniversary yields gold for undefeated Blue Devils
For the 18th time in Drum Corps International's 45-year history, the Blue Devils are back atop the drum corps universe.
With a score of 98.537, the most decorated of DCI's corps celebrated its 60th anniversary with a gold medal in Saturday's DCI World Championship Finals.
The Blue Devils victory came in front of a record crowd of 23,342 Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, marking the seventh straight season the Finals have drawn record attendance in Indy.
“Being a world champion is such an indescribable feeling,” said Blue Devils mellophone player Trevor Stojanovich. “Knowing that this is our 18th championship, and being able to represent all the Blue Devils from the past 60 years, is something I never thought I would do. Ever since I was 15 years old, I dreamed of this night, and it's a dream come true.”
With Saturday's win, the Concord corps continued a trend of 11-straight top-two finishes and clinched its seventh undefeated season, while also adding the 2017 John Brazale Best Visual Performance Award and Don Angelica Award for Best Overall General Effect to its trophy case.
Each of the last five times the corps has come up shy of first place, it has stormed back the following season with a gold medal — a true testament to the Devils' consistency.
“When you have kids like this, and a design team like this, and support staff and instructional staff, admin, everything all the way around, it becomes something pretty special,” Blue Devils CEO Justin Heimbecker said.
While falling just short of capping its golden anniversary season with its first gold medal since 1999, Santa Clara Vanguard (2nd, 97.600) remained one of the World Class division's breakout corps for 2017 and took home the George Zingali Award for Best Color Guard and the Fred Sanford Award for Best Percussion Performance.
With their Saturday placement, Vanguard earned a medal for the first time since 2004 and improved on its 2016 final score by a full two points.
“The whole concept of Ouroboros is all about reimagining and reinventing yourself through trial and hardship,” Vanguard drum major Christopher Harper said. “And I can honestly say that this entire corps has grown through trial, through hardship and it's been absolutely incredible. I couldn't ask for more.”
Carolina Crown (3rd, 96.575) notched its second-straight bronze medal, third-straight top-three finish and second-straight Jim Ott Award for Best Brass Performance. The corps came just inches from a perfect brass score with a tally of 19.8 out of 20 points.
“It's one of those things you don't know until you're there,” drum major Ross Werner said of conducting Crown's powerful horn line. “And for them to be arguably one of the best horn lines ever to have existed in the activity, you don't get over it.”
Just as they did last season, The Cavaliers (4th, 95.200) moved up from one position from Semifinals to Finals, this time defeating the Bluecoats (5th, 95.162) for the first time since early 2013 and the first time at a Finals event since 2011.
In an individual sense, the Green Machine certainly enjoyed immense competitive improvement with a top-three placement in the percussion caption.
"I was proud of them before I heard the scores," Cavaliers director Joe Roach said. "We got to the top of the tunnel, and we all knew we found magic in a bottle tonight, and the crowd gave it up for us. So to make a jump on Finals night was icing on the cake."
The defending champion Bluecoats broke the 95-point milestone for the fourth season in a row, after having done so just once prior to 2014.
With an exceedingly energetic program, the Canton, Ohio corps certainly garnered one of the night's most emphatic crowd reactions at the close of their high-octane production.
“I've never had an experience like that,” Bluecoats drum major Graham Hopkins said. “To have the audience members on their feet with us, to be able to project that energy to them and to feed off of them, is unreal. It's unlike anything I've ever had happen before.”
The Boston Crusaders (6th, 92.962) capped off the best season in their 77-year history, improving upon last year's finish by six placements and nearly nine points.
Having set an all-time high score in Thursday's Prelims, the final performances of the season were the icing on an outstanding 2017 tour for the “wicked” corps, which hopes to see continued improvement in the years to come.
“I believe it was two years ago that the board of directors announced that B.A.C. officially stands for ‘Building A Champion,'” Boston mellophone age-out Justin Kline said. “I believe we're well on our way to achieving that goal of a championship title in the next few years. This was only the beginning. We're going to go nowhere but up from here. ”
With their final performance of “The Faithful, The Fallen, The Forgiven,” The Cadets' (7th, 91.675) emotional finish made for a memorable last run for the members of the Allentown corps.
“I've been in The Cadets for four years and I've never experienced anything like that,” Cadets horn sergeant Alejandro Tavarez said. “To have 20,000-plus people stand up for us was something remarkable and something I can hold onto and cherish for the rest of my life.”
With a score of 90.400, the Blue Knights cemented themselves in the top eight after recently turning a back-and-forth race for eighth with Phantom Regiment (9th, 88.125) into a resounding lead for the Denver corps.
“I was laughing at the end of that run, just so happy and so giddy,” Blue Knights drum major Diane Huseman said. “I just could not stop smiling. When we cut off the last note, I looked at the other drum major and we were just grinning.”
For Phantom Regiment, the closing company front of their production, “Phantasm,” and the audience eruption that came with it made Saturday's performance one for the books.
“It's been a dream to be on this field Finals night,” Regiment drum major Josiah Marinos said. “The past three nights at the end, they've just roared, and from behind me I can hear the sound. It's the most magical feeling whenever we'd cut off and I'd turn around and just see this crowd giving a standing ovation.”
With a strong late-season push, the Blue Stars (10th, 87.938) achieved back-to-back finishes in the top 10 in resounding fashion. Since this summer's very first event, the Wisconsin corps was locked in tight competition with the Crossmen (11th, 86.825), with the two having never been separated by more than a point throughout the season until Saturday night's Finals competition.
“That was the most emotional performance I have ever had,” sixth-year Blue Stars drum major Nessa Guerra said. “That was the best end to it all. Everyone here is my family, and I couldn't have asked for a better six seasons, and a better age-out and a better experience in my life. I'm just happy to have had all these years with my family at the Blue Stars.”
For the Crossmen, though, a strong season brought about a fifth finals appearance in six years for a corps that previously hadn't made the top 12 since 2004. Drum major Randall Himes said he expects this to be the start of the corps doing some serious “damage” in the seasons to come.
“Everybody tried the hardest that they could do every day of the season. I never once thought that we weren't going to be incredible,” he said. “Last night we put up a score that the Texas Crossmen have never seen before, and we decided we weren't done. We wanted to keep going tonight."
Back in the Finals for the first time since 2015, the Madison Scouts (12th, 85.250) set the bar high with an energetic run of “The Last Man Standing,” closing the corps' season on a high note.
“I'm a little tired, to be honest,” drum major Zachary Sheller said after his corps' high-energy performance. “It's always about continuing to do what we're doing and always doing more. I love the 2017 Madison Scouts.”
With Saturday's unprecedented event, DCI's 45th anniversary season comes to a close, with expectations high for an even stronger season in 2018.