Holy Name Cadets
Thursday, July 16 was a night of excitement and competitive surprises for fans in Texas as 10 World Class corps marched into the Berry Athletic Complex in Cypress for the DCI Houston presented by the exSIGHTment of SOUND event. Top honors went to the Holy Name Cadets, who earned a score of 88.60. Carolina Crown, a clear front runner coming into this weekend's series of events, took second place with a score of 88.05. The Cadets have been nipping at the heels of Crown all season. Tonight's narrow victory by just over a half point was the first time the Allentown corps has surpassed Crown since the very beginning of the '09 DCI Tour on June 20 in Annapolis, Md. "We really felt we had a good performance tonight. Our show just keeps getting better and better each day and that's our goal," said Cadets drum major Ben Pouncey. "One of the most exciting things about our production is that there are so many impact points that are just incredibly exciting. It's just so much fun—it's a privilege to stand in front of these people every day."

Post-event interview with Cadets drum majors Ben Pouncey and Chris Zenter.

The surprises continued further down in the scores; Blue Stars (83.25) took third place over the reigning World Champion Phantom Regiment (83.05). A feat nearly 35 years in the making, the last time the Blue Stars were on top of their fellow Midwest rivals was at the 1975 DCI World Championship in Philadelphia.

Blue Stars
"We're really starting to get on our toes and everything's starting to come together, said Blue Stars drum major Jonathan Powell. "We're really starting to affect people with our performances." The Boston Crusaders continued their strong season (5th, 82.75) topping the Glassmen (6th, 81.20) by just under two points. Spirit (75.05) and Crossmen (74.25) vied for seventh and eighth place, respectively. Pacific Crest (9th, 71.25) and Mandarins (10th, 70.10) rounded out the first night of competition in Houston. A steady breeze eased the Texas heat throughout the evening, but the wind was not appreciated by everyone. "For the color guard, conquering the wind was a big feat tonight," said Cadets color guard captain Katie Hopkins. She said the color guard did well with many changes that have been worked into their production in the last few days. Corps members say that at this point in the season, nothing stays the same for long and they learn new things every day. No performance is like the one before it, and fans continue to be delighted with the increasingly complex and entertaining presentations. "The show changes daily. We haven't gone a day when we haven't added something," said the Blue Stars' Powell. Glassmen front ensemble section leader Andy Wozniak said his favorite part of the corps' 2009 production titled "The Journey of ONE," is one of the newest. "We just changed the second half of our ballad about a week and a half ago. We added so many different things—It's completely different, 100 percent changed, and I absolutely love to play that part.

"We were really looking forward to tonight and we had a lot of fun," Wozniak added. "It's a beautiful day in Texas. It's been a hot last few days and tonight was definitely a great payoff to finally do it and show everything new to the people." Rehearsing in 100-degree heat can certainly take its toll on corps members as they continue their grueling cross-country tour of the United States, but Carolina Crown members especially showed their mettle this week by working though an illness that affected virtually the entire corps. Mark Whitfield, drum major for Crown, said at one point there were 30 members out sick from the corps' full ensemble rehearsal. But even after having to pull out of a Monday evening competition in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., he says the group is rebounding extraordinarily well. "The corps has been working really, really hard the last couple of days," he said. "It's impressive to see that much fire from people that just a few days ago were quarantined and resting and recovering in their sleeping bags." Thursday's events in Dallas and Houston marked the beginning of the DCI Southwestern Series, sponsored by Jupiter Band Instruments, which continues tomorrow as the corps switch locations and compete again. The series will culminate at the San Antonio Alamodome on Saturday, where 21 of the 22 World Class corps will go head to head for the first time this season. A Southwestern Series champion will be named at the conclusion of Saturday's competition in addition to caption award winners. View a complete recap of scores from the DCI Houston event. Read about the outcome of day one of the DCI Dallas competition. Contributors: Jeff Hartowicz, Peter Mitchell, Craig Olear.