INDIANAPOLIS, IN — As competition in Indianapolis ramps up, previous scores quickly turn to an afterthought. And there’s still a lot of time before the medals get doled out.
The one-show-at-a-time-approach takes on a new importance during Finals Week.
“I think it’s the most important now,” Bluecoats drum major Peyton Grunzke said. “If you get in your head trying to think about all the things you have at stake or have coming, that can be really detrimental to your performance.”
For now, the implications of those concerns can sit on the backburner. Sticking to order, Bluecoats topped the 36-corps field Thursday night at the DCI World Championship Prelims pres. by GPG Music, opening up a slim tenth-of-a-point-advantage over the second-place Blue Devils.
Thursday didn’t crown a champion. It did, however, show just how wide-open this championship is. For now, Bluecoats hold the high score and the confidence heading into day two at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I think it’s really important to stack successes in general,” Grunzke said. “One success is more likely to lead to another. We came out here knowing it was an important show and just taking the same approach we always do.”
1. Bluecoats » 97.650
2. Blue Devils » 97.550
3. Santa Clara Vanguard » 96.238
4. Carolina Crown » 95.938
The tenth-of-a-point margin between Bluecoats and Blue Devils has only been thinner in two of the corps’ nine previous head-to-head meetings this season.
Bluecoats defeated the Concord corps in the general effect and music captions, racking up a combined .525-point advantage over Blue Devils in those two captions. The Blue Devils, however, put a large chunk in their deficit thanks to a .425-point advantage in the visual caption.
“We haven’t talked about winning the title a lot because things have gone very smoothly for us this season. People are getting along. Everybody’s being proactive. It’s one of the most positive seasons the Blue Devils have had,” drum major Chasen Young said. “What will happen will happen. But we know we know that we’re maxing out what we have right now.”
Aside from the neck-and-neck finish at the top, perhaps the other significant storyline Thursday revolves around the resurgence of Carolina Crown, which closed the gap on Vanguard to three-tenths of a point, tied for the closest it’s been all season.
Despite Vanguard’s head-to-head victories in both the general effect and visual caption, Crown used a big win in brass to take first overall in music.
“This is what you work toward all season, you work for Lucas Oil from the very beginning and now we’re here,” Carolina Crown drum major Michael St. Ores said. “The performance tonight sets us up for everything to come.”
5. The Cavaliers » 94.250
6. Boston Crusaders » 94.225
Despite getting knocked with a three-tenth penalty, The Cavaliers topped Boston by a razor-thin 0.025 points. After Boston won the first seven head-to-head meetings between the corps, The Cavaliers have now won the last five.
The Cavaliers earned head-to-head wins in general effect and music but Boston, behind a second-place finish in color guard, took the visual caption by a quarter of a point.
7. Blue Knights » 91.475
8. Blue Stars » 90.850
Last weekend in Allentown, Blue Knights had a .075 lead over the Blue Stars, an advantage they increased to more than a point the next night in Buffalo.
On Thursday, the La Crosse, Wisconsin corps trimmed its deficit to just 0.625 points.
But on the first night of competition in Indianapolis, the Blue Knights used a massive number in the music caption to overcome a tie in overall visual.
“I think about Prelims as when you come out and you make a statement.” Blue Knights drum major Daniel Belcher said. “You’re trying to go, ‘This is what it is,’ and the next two nights get slightly better and better,” “Feels awesome to throw down.”
9. The Cadets » 90.100
10. Mandarins » 88.850
11. Phantom Regiment » 87.375
12. Crossmen » 87.163
The Cadets used an incredibly strong music caption — including a sixth-place finish in the corps’ continuously strong percussion subcaption — to top Mandarins Thursday night. The Sacramento corps, though, kept themselves within striking distance of The Cadets with head-to-head wins in both the general effect and visual captions.
“We have been working really hard for the past few days and it really feels like all this work has paid off,” Mandarins drum major Marcus Holifield-Helm said. “It feels like everything is locked into place. The staff has just been pushing us. The members are incredibly excited. And the energy is always there.”
The race between Phantom Regiment and Crossmen continues to stay heated into the season’s final weekend.
On Thursday, Phantom Regiment used close wins in both general effect and music to notch its second straight head-to-head victory. Prior to that, Corssmen had taken every matchup of the season.
“It’s awesome to come in here on the first night of Finals and throw down. It feels really good,” Phantom Regiment drum major Claire Wilcox said. “There’s always things I think we can push further to the very end, but definitely starting off strong makes us feel better for the rest of the weekend.”
13. Spirit of Atlanta » 85.250
14. Pacific Crest » 83.925
15. The Academy » 83.900
16. Colts » 83.825
Perhaps the closest three-corps race heading into Friday is between Pacific Crest, The Academy and Colts, all of which were separated by just a tenth of a point.
Colts took the music caption from the other two, while The Academy also topped Pacific Crest in music and visual to stay within less than a tenth of a point.
But on Thursday, the trio was headed by Pacific Crest, which beat Colts for the first time since 2013 and The Academy for the first time since 2014. The Southern California corps regrouped after Colts had a 0.85-point advantage over them Monday in Pennsylvania.
If Pacific Crest sticks at 14th, it will be the corps’ best finish ever by two places.
“Considering we came in cold because of the rain, I honestly couldn’t be more proud of what we put on the field,” Pacific Crest drum major Amber Cameron said. “We’ve been an underdog all season, and I think people are finally recognizing PC.”
Spirit of Atlanta bested the trio of close corps to finish in the No. 13 spot. The corps is currently on the outside looking in at the Top 12 Finals cutline, trailing Crossmen by just under two points with a day to go.
“Right now we’re going for a combination of energy and precision, and we’re definitely making waves on that,” Spirit of Atlanta drum major Gretchen Casel said. “It was everything that we could have hoped for.”
17. Madison Scouts » 81.025
18. Troopers » 80.850
19. Spartans » 80.400
20. Genesis » 78.163
21. Legends » 78.075
22. Gold » 76.825
Just as they did en route to a gold in Marion, Spartans topped all Open Class competitors in Thursday’s event — as well as three of their World Class counterparts — putting the Nashua, New Hampshire corps on track for its highest finish since World and Open Class corps combined championships in 2011.
“We haven’t won the Open Class Championship in a long time and now that we have that little chip on our shoulder, it made it all the more special,” Spartans drum major David Marshall Jr. said. “Performing here is always a pleasure, they brought it again and that’s all you can ask for.”
Legends and Gold, the respective Open Class silver and bronze medalists, will round out the Open Class representation during Friday’s Semifinals. If the standings don’t shuffle, the pair will also lock in their best finishes in history.
“We were confident even before we got second at the Open Class Finals. I think that confirmed that we were right to be confident,” Legends drum major Jack Murphy said. “We’re here to do the same thing we’ve been doing.”
Added Gold drum major Jonathan Spray: “It felt like a very good performance, definitely our strongest run of the closer so far. We came prepared. We rehearsed really hard. We were expecting to come in and blow the doors off of the building.”
Genesis used a strong General Effect caption to hold off Legends. And after falling behind Troopers Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Madison Scouts topped the Casper, Wyoming corps by nearly two-tenths of a point Thursday.
23. Music City » 76.588
24. Jersey Surf » 76.413
25. Seattle Cascades » 73.700
26. Louisiana Stars » 73.600
By just one-tenth of a point, the Seattle Cascades edged out Open Class corps Louisiana Stars for the elusive final spot in Friday’s DCI World Championship Semifinals. The 25th-place finish ends Cascades’ two-year Semifinals drought.
“I think we were ready,” Seattle Cascades drum major Joey Massey said. “The past couple days we’ve been rehearsing really hard. For us, this was just a good chance to show, ‘Hey, we’re Cascades, look what we’re doing.’ Turn some heads.”
Even so, after besting its score from last year by nearly six points, the Louisiana corps left the field knowing its incredible 2019 didn’t go unnoticed.
“We really set the expectation high with our finals performance in Marion,” Louisiana Stars’ drum major Jaden Romero. “We left knowing that that was the best run we’ve ever had and going into this, we just wanted to have fun and enjoy it.”
After falling behind Jersey Surf by 1.05 points Monday night in Edinboro, Pennsylvania for the first time in 2019, Music City rebounded and jumped the Camden County, New Jersey corps in Indianapolis.
Surf, though, isn’t complaining. After a four-year drought, the corps put a cherry on top of its strong 2019 season with a spot in Friday’s Semifinals.
“This has been my 10th time performing in this stadium and that was the best performance I’ve ever had here,” Jersey Surf drum major Dante Salina said. “I stuck with Surf my second year in drum corps and seeing how far we’ve come in four years, beating a decades worth of scores so suddenly — a lot of pride.”
27. Southwind » 72.363
28. River City Rhythm » 71.075
29. Guardians » 70.975
30. 7th Regiment » 70.475
Southwind, the 2019 Open Class Most Improved corps, missed out on a spot in the Semifinals by just over a point. They still managed to climb six spots on the leaderboard and add nearly a half dozen points from their 2018 finish.
“Hearing them fill up the stadium with their sound is rewarding for everybody.” Southwind drum major Ernad Sisic said. “It would be the first time we made Semis since the corps came back in 2014. It would mean a lot.”
River City Rhythm, Guardians and 7th Regiment rounded out the Top 30 on Thursday.
River City went up almost three points from last season, jumping Guardians and 7th Regiment after finishing behind both in the Open Class Finals.
Guardians matched their Prelims placement from last year and managed to beat River City in music. 7th Regiment used a brass win over River City and Guardians to secure its eighth-straight Top 30 finish.
31. Golden Empire » 68.475
32. Shadow » 66.300
33. Colt Cadets » 64.425
The trio of Golden Empire, Shadow and Colt Cadets made solid year-to-year improvements from 2018.
Colt Cadets jumped five positions to 33rd, and Shadow used a win over Golden Empire in music to bump its Prelims score up 4.3 points from last season.
Golden Empire, in its second trip to the DCI World Championships, beat its 2018 score by nearly 5.5 points en route to a 31st-place finish.
“It’s an awesome, awesome experience. None of us are ever going to forget this,” Golden Empire drum major Caleb Marroquin said. “Walking in past the first tunnel, seeing everything and going, ‘We’re going to be in there in a second.’ It was a great time.”
34. Les Stentors » 63.150
35. Raiders » 62.450
36. Heat Wave » 60.050
Les Stentors, Raiders and Heat Wave completed the 36-corps Prelims field. Les Stentors, the only non-American competing corps, recorded their highest Prelims finish since 2014 and scored more than eight points higher since their last trip to Indy in 2017.
The Quebec corps topped Shadow and Colt Cadets in the visual caption and jumped ahead of Raiders after the New Jersey corps edged out Les Stentors at the Open Class Finals in Marion.
“We’re all so excited to be able to perform for as many people as we can in such an amazing venue.” Les Stentors drum major Jade Banta said. “What we always say is, ‘We’ve done this a million times, we’ve been doing it for months. Nothing that we do is any different.’”
Raiders bested Les Stentors in music while improving upon last year’s Prelims score by an impressive 2.4 points. Heat Wave, while rounding out the leaderboard, also improved upon its last 2018 score by more than a point.
The Inbhear Mor Performance Ensemble an International Class corps from Ireland, kicked off Thursday’s 13-plus-hour Prelims event with an exhibition performance.