Two heavyweight California corps reaffirmed their claims to the Open Class Championship, while a brand-new corps leapfrogged its way to the final day as the Open Class World Championship got under way Monday in Michigan City, Indiana.
Vanguard Cadets edged out the reigning champions, Blue Devils B, to claim first place in preliminary competition with a score of 80.225.
“That was … that was unbelievable,” said Vanguard Cadets drum major Carl Huang. “That had to be the best experience I’ve ever had in my time marching. That was something completely new for me. I’m so glad they had that experience too.”
“Everyone was on fire from the beginning of the day,” Huang said. “Lights went on in the gym in the morning, everyone just got up right away, no stragglers, we all hit the field and worked our butts off all day, and it just shows up when we’re here, when we’re in the stadium, when we’re in uniform.”
Members of the Vanguard Cadets are anxiously eyeing their fourth Open Class title and second in three years. To accomplish the feat, they must remain on top for just one more night.
“We have a goal in mind, and we’re not going to take our eyes off it,” Huang said. “We know what we want and we know how to get it.”
Blue Devils B finished in second place, three tenths behind Vanguard with a score of 79.900. The Concord, California corps has won four of the last six Open Class titles, including last year, when their organization swept both Open and World Class Championships.
Vanguard Cadets and Blue Devils B will resolve their competition tomorrow night in Michigan City; the gold medalist is heavily favored to be one of the two corps. The owner of tomorrow’s bronze medal is more of a mystery after one corps vaulted itself into prime contention.
Spartans, celebrating their 60th anniversary, took third (74.550). They had been seeded fifth heading into Monday’s competition, but their performance at the Open Class Prelims marks them as the new favorites to fill out the medal stand.
“This was one of the first times I felt that everyone in the corps just clicked, perfectly together for the show,” said Spartans drum major C. Jay Sutton. “We always do, but this was the show.”
After the death of the corps’ founder prior to the season, Spartans members have been dedicated to the corps’ most important values.
“Our corps motto is ‘respect, responsibility and commitment,’ and we teach that with everything we do,” Sutton said. “Not just on the field, but off the field as well. Whether we’re in a Spartan uniform or whether we’re at a mall shopping with friends, everything we do is those three words.”
Twelve of the 14 competing corps will advance to Tuesday night's Finals competition. Of the top 12, perhaps none are more excited than first-year corps River City Rhythm. Seeded 11th coming into Monday’s performance, the Anoka, Minnesota corps shot up to 8th place, clinching a finalist spot with a score of 66.550.
“What an honor, in our first year, to be able to make Finals here in the Open Class, and be amongst some extremely good corps from across the country,” said River City Rhythm director Todd Dufault. “With all the uncertainty of a first-year corps, I cannot be more proud of the kids and all they’ve accomplished this first year. “
Besides Vanguard Cadets, Blue Devils B, Spartans and River City Rhythm, eight more corps punched their ticket to the Open Class Finals on Monday.
Genesis took fourth with a score of (74.425). The young Texas corps is looking to acquire its third straight bronze medal, and is just over a tenth behind Spartans.
Another corps celebrating an anniversary took fifth: Legends (74.325), who turned 10 this year. The corps from Kalamazoo, Michigan has never finished higher than seventh in the Open Class, so 2015 figures to be far and away the most successful year in the corps’ history.
In sixth, 7th Regiment outperformed its name. With a score of 73.050, the New London, Connecticut corps looks to build on the momentum gained from a fifth-place finish in 2014.
Seventh place went to Music City, who scored 71.325. Aiming to make the World Championship Semifinals in Indianpolis for the second time in three years, the Nashville corps is attempting to make a competitive push over the last week of the season to accomplish its goals.
The third California corps in Monday’s lineup, Gold (9th, 66.500) lost out on eighth place to River City Rhythm by just half of a tenth.
Gold drum major Jake Marsh said the added pressure of performing at the Open Class Championship has helped the corps take its show to the next level.
“The atmosphere of Open Class Finals and Prelims has made it really special,” Marsh said. “We had a really focused and energetic run-through today.”
Tied in their final competition prior to the Open Class Championship, the Colt Cadets (63.800) managed to squeak out a two-tenth lead to take 10th place over the Raiders (11th, 63.600). The decisive salvo in their clash will come tomorrow, with either corps capable of topping the other.
Les Stentors of Quebec took the 12th and final spot in Tuesday’s Finals lineup with a score of 60.225.
In 13th place, the Racine Scouts (55.225) fell just short of earning a spot in the Finals.
The corps has grown significantly over the season, with several performers joining the group within the last two weeks, after Coastal Surge stopped its season short. The Scouts were quick to welcome the new members.
“A lot of the kids were a little nervous about finding a new family, but we did open up our arms, and they’re just as much of a part of this drum corps as they would have been if they’d started at day one,” said Racine Scouts director Cary Byrd. “Getting them back on the field was a priority for us at Racine Scouts.”
The season isn’t over for the Racine corps. They will compete at the World Championship Prelims in Indianapolis on Thursday, and participate in the DrumLine Battle event on Saturday afternoon in downtown Indianapolis. Those extra performances mean the world to the young musicians.
“That’s a huge deal for all of our kids,” Byrd said.
The Blue Saints rounded out the Open Class lineup with a score of 50.725. Regardless of their final score, drum major Mallory Wentworth has seen firsthand how far her corps has come.
“Coming from Canada, there really is no marching band program, no anything, so these kids start out early in the season with no basic marching fundamentals,” Wentworth said. “They’ve really grown into an incredible group of talented musicians and marchers. I’m just so proud.”
Three international corps capped the evening’s performances: Gita Surosowan Banten, from Indonesia; Chien Kuo High School, from Taiwan; and Jubal, from the Netherlands.
Jubal took first in the division with a score of 67.350. Jubal director Hans Kloppert said the corps was enthused to be performing in Michigan City.
“It felt good. It felt really good,” Kloppert said. “This is our fourth (U.S.) tour, and I think we can say it’s by far the best tour in terms of performances and shows.”
The Dutch corps is dedicating its tour to their previous director, who passed away when the corps was three days into the season.
“It’s been an up and down tour, but in terms of performances and rehearsals, the corps are really into it,” Kloppert said.
Gita Surosowan Banten took second in the International Class with a score of 64.475, and Chien Kuo placed third with a score of 62.800.
The three international corps will join the 12 Open Class finalists tomorrow night at Ames Field as the Open Class World Championship reaches its exciting conclusion. It will be an emotional night for many, including the third-year drum major of the field-leading Vanguard Cadets.
Carl Huang relayed the last things he’ll say to his corps as they attempt to hold off Blue Devils B and clinch their fourth Open Class championship:
“Santa Clara, take this field. Take those stands. Mark time, hut!”
Contributing: Christina Mavroudis, Casey Smith