In a scramble for the 2011 Drum Corps International World Championship title, the Cadets came out on top Thursday, Aug. 11, prevailing over the Blue Devils by half a point at the World Championship Prelims. The Cadets received top honors with their score of 97.35 over 40 other corps from all divisions in this unprecedented "all-skate" drum corps competition that pitted World, Open and International Class corps against each other for the very first time. Kicking off bright and early at 9 a.m., the event came to a close more than 14 hours later. The corps with the top 25 scores from Thursday's Prelims will move one step closer to the 2011 top prize at the Semifinals scheduled for Friday, Aug. 12. Moments after the final scores were announced at Lucas Oil Stadium, Cadets director George Hopkins explained that winning a championship is the hopeful result of all his corps' hard work, but not the goal. Rather, "it's about doing a great job and going for a level of excellence that's ridiculous and unbelievable," he said. Hopkins is cautious but confident in his corps' ability to prevail in the final two days of the 2011 season. "The Blue Devils are serious business and the Cavaliers are great," he said. "I will say on our behalf, though, we've been great for a week now. We've been great every day, day after day after day."
Ben Pouncey, Cadets drum major, remarked that the corps' goal was to set the bar high and improve every day of competition. According to Pouncey, winning was great but does not affect the corps' actions. "We'll still be getting up in the morning and going after it tomorrow," he said. Blue Devils snare drummer Matt Keown said his corps' performance, which earned a 96.85 for second place, "felt amazing" because the corps has been anxiously awaiting the last shows of the season. "We have only a few rehearsal days to get better in time for this final push," he said. Trailing only four tenths of a point behind were the Cavaliers (3rd, 96.45), whose drum major Brandon Cave joined the ranks of Green Machine corps members who perform upside down as part of their eccentric "XtroardinarY" production. "I think I might be the first person in the history of mankind to have conducted upside down," joked Cave, who was assisted by his fellow drum major Andrew Rhebergen up on his podium on the 50-yard line. Rhebergen said they have been working on the trick for two weeks and finally unveiled it at the Prelims. A crowd favorite, Carolina Crown took fourth place with a 94.80, though Phantom Regiment (5th, 94.15) crept up less than a point behind.
Crown color guard member Herbert Washington again expressed his inner "Rach Star" by smashing a real guitar at the end of the show, a stunt the corps introduced in Allentown, Pa. last weekend and continues at each performance. "In all my six years with in a drum corps, I never thought I would be smashing a guitar," he said with a smile. Santa Clara Vanguard captured the sixth spot, scoring 91.85 with their complex show, "The Devil's Staircase," edging past the Bluecoats (91.80) by only half of a tenth of a point. "The performance tonight had a lot of energy. We were definitely pushing forward through rehearsal to get as much as we could out of tonight's show, and it definitely showed up on the field," SCV drum major Brandn Lindsey said. "We can definitely make some improvements over the next few days, but tonight was good," he said. Laura Koester, SCV's color guard captain, echoed Lindsey's remarks. "The color guard had a great show. Everything has really been coming together and it is showing up on the field," she said. The Boston Crusaders earned a 90.20, putting them in eighth place going into the Semifinals competition. The Blue Knights followed in ninth place with an 88.70.
Though scoring just shy of the Blue Knights with an 88.50, the Madison Scouts (10th) brought the crowd to its feet well before the closing stanza of the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys hit "Empire State of Mind" finished off the production. Blue Stars (86.90) took 11th place. "There are definitely things for us to focus and work on for the rest of the week, but it's always an amazing feeling to stand in front of my corps and to hear the power and energy," said Blue Stars drum major Layna Pieratt. Director Howard Weinstein remarked that the Blue Stars' performance was exciting and more emotional than in the past, especially during the lyrical portions. "It gave the kids a good feel for the setting and the performance arena, and as we work our way into tomorrow and the next day, hopefully they get stronger and stronger," he said. After a rally against Spirit of Atlanta in Erie, Pa. on Aug. 6, the Glassmen (82.95) ended the preliminaries shy of the top 12 at the moment, more than 2.5 points behind Spirit (12th, 85.50). "Today's performance was one of the most solid runs we've had of our show thus far," said Glassmen drum major Josh Jameson. He commented that the corps' goal for the rest of the week is simply consistency. "Really, it's not about the scores or about the placements. It's about the people we are around and the experiences we have had."
The Troopers (82.70) edged out the Academy (15th, 82.10) for 14th place, while Colts (81.35) squeaked past Crossmen (17th, 81.10) by two tenths of a point to capture 16th place. Pacific Crest (18th, 76.85) topped the Mandarins (19th, 76.35), who improved their previous score more than seven tenths of a point with their show, "The Forty Thieves." They were followed by Teal Sound, who earned 20th place with a score of 75.40, bettering their Aug. 5 Allentown, Pa. score by half a point. Rounding out the World Class corps advancing to tomorrow's competition were Cascades (72.80, 23rd) and Jersey Surf (25th, 72.25). Bob Jacobs, Jersey Surf executive director, said the corps is very pleased to be performing again on Friday. "We have been enjoying a great journey together this season, and there is no doubt that tomorrow's performance will be an emotional and joyous ending to a great year for our organization." In the World Class division, only Pioneer (27th, 68.40) will not be returning for Friday's Semifinals competition, as Open Class corps Blue Devils B, Oregon Crusaders, and Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets surpassed the Wisconsin corps' score.
Pioneer's 50th anniversary season was a time to look back and celebrate the past, but the corps also had many new beginnings according to age-out front ensemble member Chase Tonar. "It was mostly an all-rookie corps, so the vets were a huge help. We had new staff members who were great, and they just made us push harder and harder [toward our goals]," Tonar said "This was my last and only season, but I couldn't have asked for anything better." Although the roughly 65-member corps faced a unique challenge in competing against much larger groups, Tonar said Pioneer's last performance of the 2011 season was a great one. "The season was really a celebration that we've been here for so long and that we will be back to compete again," he said. Read more about Thursday's Prelims competition. Beginning at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, Lucas Oil stadium will again fill with excited fans and the sounds of the world's marching music elite, as the 25 medal contenders are whittled down to the top 12 that will advance to World Championship Finals on Saturday. View the complete schedule of 2011 World Championship events.