ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Nick Winckel has been involved in the Boston Crusaders organization since 2014.

In his five years with the corps — the last two as a drum major — he’s seen about as wide an array of competitive results as possible.

“Being around since 2014, I’ve experienced a lot of different placements, per se,” Winckel said. “But this is the first year that I’ve felt it really have an impact on morale. It’s not the biggest point or the biggest reason that we’re here, but it does boost your morale when you have that kind of reward for what you’ve been doing, it’s pretty cool.”

With how firmly the Boston Crusaders have established themselves in the elite tier of World Class competitors, it’s easy to forget the breakneck speed of the corps’ rise.

It was just two years ago that the corps, essentially, buzzer-beat its way into the last finalist position following a surprise jump at the DCI World Championship Semifinals. In doing so, the corps avoided falling outside of the Top 12 for the first time since before the turn of the century.

Now, the finals cut-off line seems to be a distant speck on Boston’s rear-view mirror. After soaring into the top six in 2017, the Crusaders have their sights on, at the very least, matching last year’s impressive output.

“Personally, I don’t know what placement we’re going to get, but we really just want to get this show to the best possible place,” Winckel said. “I think a lot of it is just making sure everybody is on the same page and making sure that we all know what the end goal is, and they’re all reaching for that the entire rest of the season.”

Boston CrusadersBoston Crusaders performs at the DCI Tour Premiere on June 21 in Detroit.

Fresh off of its major success of a year ago, Boston opened its season indoors at the DCI Tour Premiere in Detroit. At the time, the corps sat nearly three points behind Carolina Crown and two behind The Cavaliers.

About two weeks later, in Orlando, the Crusaders found themselves in a deadlock with Crown, a corps they haven’t defeated head-to-head since 2006.

While that specific gap has opened up a bit since, namely with the inclusion of more competitors at the DCI Midwestern Championship presented by DeMoulin Bros. & Co., Boston still left St. Louis less than three points behind the first-place Blue Devils — the closest it’s ever been to the 18-time DCI World Champion.

Read more about Sunday’s DCI Midwestern Championship

At the first regional event of the season, the corps cut its deficit behind The Cavaliers to just under half a point, the closest those two have been since 2013. It also earned top-three finishes on the judges’ sheets in percussion and color guard.

Boston CrusadersMembers of Boston Crusaders perform "S.O.S.," July 15 in St. Louis.

“I think there was a lot of focus coming into St. Louis,”  We were pretty hyped, because we hadn’t had a dome show in a while, since Detroit. And I think, just the talk and buzz around this show, in specific, we were really hyped, and mentally, it made everybody ready and focused for the show today.”

According to Winckel, recent tweaks to the design of Boston’s 2018 program, “S.O.S.,” have kept rehearsals fresh and the corps’ overall momentum rolling in the right direction.

“The past two rehearsal days were focused on design, and I feel like it helped boost the morale a little bit, just because we know that there’s more changes coming, and not everything’s so stagnant, if that makes sense,” he said. “We’re able to focus on something new, and it falls into place a little bit better in terms of telling the story that we’re trying to tell.”

The Boston Crusaders will have several more chances to compete with the corps that currently sit above them in the competitive standings, especially with the DCI Southwestern Championship presented by Lone Star Percussion looming on Saturday.

Upcoming Boston Crusaders performances

Tuesday, July 17

Broken Arrow, OK

Thursday, July 19

Belton, TX | Watch LIVE on FloMarching

Saturday, July 21

San Antonio, TX | Watch LIVE on FloMarching