MEMPHIS — With their trek east toward America’s southern states, Santa Clara Vanguard is encountering an antithetical climate and a new crop of competition to stack themselves up against.

Vanguard competed head-to-head against both the Boston Crusaders and Carolina Crown for the first time this season Saturday at DCI Memphis, besting the pair of east-coast corps with a score of 87.200.

View all scores from Memphis

“Our biggest thing is — obviously we had a super successful year last year — to come out here and prove to the fans and to other corps that we’re better than last year in every single way,” Vanguard drum major Andrew Arbouzov said. “Right down to the way we walk onto the field, to the way we hold our instruments, that’s been really good for us.”

Carolina CrownCarolina Crown
 1. Santa Clara Vanguard » 87.200
 2. Carolina Crown » 86.400
 3. Boston Crusaders » 85.550

Vanguard swept all three captions to secure its win over the field. The California corps also beat Boston in color guard by a tenth of a point, a caption the Crusaders took top honors in at the 2018 DCI World Championships.

But Saturday’s scores show just how much the balance of power has shifted since the DCI Finals a year ago. When Vanguard took home its seventh title last season, Boston was more than four points behind Santa Clara and Carolina Crown was more than three points behind the champion.

DCI Memphis saw a much tighter cluster between Santa Clara, Boston and Carolina Crown than years past, especially between Boston and Crown. Last Friday in Lexington, Boston defeated the Fort Mill, South Carolina corps by 0.15, it first head-to-head win since 2006.

But thanks to a strong showing in the general effect caption and head-to-head wins in all captions except music analysis and color guard, Crown pushed back ahead of Boston in Saturday’s Memphis event.

“Every performance opportunity is an opportunity to get better at performing,” Carolina Crown drum major Michael St. Ores said. “And I think tonight was a really awesome opportunity to do that in a great stadium with a really great audience.”

Jersey SurfJersey Surf
 4. Spirit of Atlanta » 77.400
 5. Music City » 70.000
 6. Jersey Surf » 66.650

There was a bit of a point gap between Crown in third and Spirit of Atlanta in fourth, but the Peach State representative scored very well on Saturday in both the visual and music captions.

Spirit’s 2019 improvement has really shined through in the last few weeks. The corps’ score in Memphis is nearly a point ahead compared to this same weekend a year ago.

“This was honestly, genuinely the most energetic run that we’ve had.” Spirit of Atlanta drum major Bailey Burks said. “I don’t know if it was the stadium, how big it was. I think we tackled that spot on and used that to fuel our fire.”

Music City and Jersey Surf rounded out the World Class field Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl. The Nashville corps finished in fifth place, crossing the 70-point hurdle for the first time this season. Last summer — the corps’ strongest to date — Music City didn’t reach 70 points until July 21 in San Antonio.

Despite the sixth-place finish, Jersey Surf’s 2019 campaign continues to be one of the more impressive improvements in drum corps. This time last year, the Camden County, New Jersey corps had yet to eclipse 64 points, eventually finishing 30th overall.

After an impressive first few weeks, including a strong performance in Memphis, Jersey Surf is on the inside track toward one of its best finishes in recent memory and a potential return to the DCI World Championship Semifinals.

That said, thanks to strong visual numbers, Music City continued to build a wider margin between itself and Jersey Surf since the two were split by 1.6 points in their first meeting on July 2.

“It’s pretty awesome performing in our home state. The crowd loved it,” Music City drum major Josh Hecht said. “Everyone has been pushing day after day, just really putting on the best product they can.”

 1. Guardians » 58.000

In their 2019 debut performance, the Guardians, the only Open Class group in the seven-corps Memphis field, put up an impressive score of 58.000.

The Houston corps staged their first performance a few days later than they did in 2018 but came out of the gates posting a two-and-a-half point advantage from their opening score a year ago.

This season is Guardians’ fourth in their seven-year history that will include a full tour and a performance at the DCI World Championships. In Indianapolis a year ago, Guardians jumped three spots from 2017 en route to a seventh-place finish.

“It went really well,” Guardians’ third-year head drum major Brian Lyke said. “It’s so exciting to have this show finally in front of a crowd that appreciates the arts. It was just great to see it on the field and great to see the kids enjoy it as well.”

With Saturday’s event in the books, all seven corps will begin making their way south as the DCI Tour heads into Texas ahead of the highly-anticipated DCI Southwestern Championship pres. by Fred J. Miller, Inc.

View the 2019 DCI Tour Schedule