Kicking off the much-anticipated 2017 DCI World Championships Week, the Vanguard Cadets took first place by a commanding margin over the defending champions, Blue Devils B, in Monday's Open Class Prelims in Michigan City, Indiana.
The two California corps have won every Open Class title since 2008 — aside from an Oregon Crusaders victory in 2012 — and look to be in position to score the top-two spots in Tuesday's Finals event.
“We've worked very hard to get to this point and I think the kids performed beautifully,” Vanguard Cadets director Steve Barnhill said. “I think they've still got a little bit more in them for tomorrow night; I was kind of glad actually that they left a little bit of improvement still to go. They'll come out of the shoot tomorrow on fire.”
For Vanguard Cadets (1st, 80.425), Monday's win over Blue Devils B (2nd, 79.138) marked their third straight since gaining a lead for the first time on July 29. The Santa Clara corps also took top marks across all captions on the scoresheet in Monday's event.
Blue Devils B certainly isn't ready to relinquish its title just yet, as color guard captain Mollie Brownlee attested after the corps' Prelims performance.
“Defeating our competitors is what's really driving us this year,” she said. “That and working to be the best we can, striving for perfection.”
For Legends (3rd, 76.225) — last year's bronze medalist — and Music City (4th, 75.488), the race for a medal and a spot in the top three is on after a tight margin separated the two season-long rivals Monday night.
Music City took the first eight 2017 meetings between the two, but Monday marked the second-straight head-to-head victory for Legends after defeating the Nashville corps by just 0.025 on Saturday in Avon Lake, Ohio.
Music City, which has never finished at the Open Class World Championship higher than fifth, will continue to vie with its well-known and well-liked opponent in Tuesday night's Finals competition.
“It's always exciting to see that close competition,” Music City drum major Jeremiah Wooten said. “Especially with Legends — They're a corps that we've been head-to-head with for years, and we've developed so many great friends with them.”
The Spartans certainly didn't give Music City much breathing room, scoring 74.863 for fifth place, just 0.625 behind.
Truly representative of the tight competition near the top of the Open Class standings, Legends, Music City and Spartans all tied with 30 points apiece in the general effect caption on Monday.
Louisiana Stars' stock rose since its ninth-place debut at last year's Open Class Championship, earning a score of 71.950 for sixth place. With a 70.625, Gold wasn't far off in seventh.
In eighth place, 7th Regiment's score of 69.825 was driven by a strong visual performance, a caption in which the corps tied Gold.
Eyeing their first top-10 finish ever, Guardians just barely edged Southwind for ninth place with a score of 68.125, most notably thanks to a lead of more than a point in the visual caption.
“That was definitely a really good performance for us,” Guardians drum major Ashton Soefje said. “Lots of stuff we've been working on the past two months has been showing up, and I'm really excited to see where it goes. This corps just continues to grow.”
In the corps' first time back at the World Championships since reforming as an Open Class corps in 2015, 10th-place Southwind earned a spot in Tuesday's Finals competition with a score of 68.000.
“We've been talking all season about getting the opportunity to finally be back here,” said David Kersey, a Southwind tuba player. “To have all the alumni supporting us the entire way, it's just so breathtaking.”
Thanks to a sizable lead and eighth-place finish in general effect, Southwind held off River City Rhythm (11th, 66.963), which has now made the top-12 in all three of its trips to Michigan City.
The Raiders fought their way to a finalist position once again with a 12th-place finish Monday night, earning a score of 63.050.
Having earned a spot in the Finals every year since the inception of the Open Class division in 2008, the New Jersey Corps kept its streak alive thanks to strong visual scores.
“It was really strong run today, and we had a ton of energy on the field,” Raiders drum major Katherine Basley said. “Our season has been full of adversity but this corps has really pulled through and shown its strength, and it's been awesome.”
Not far from advancing to Tuesday night's competition, Shadow just missed the cut in 13th place scoring 62.225, despite defeating the Raiders in the music caption and tying them in general effect. The Wisconsin corps — which finished in the same placement last season — defeated Colt Cadets (14th, 61.200), for the third time in seven meetings this summer.
For Shadow snare drummer Derrick Small — whose percussion section held a solid lead over that of Raiders and finished 10th overall — Monday's performance had him and his fellow corps members feeling ecstatic when they left the field.
“It's been a consistent grind to the end,” Small said. “Coming off that field it was all smiles for us. We were screaming before the end of the show we were so pumped.”
In just its second appearance at the Open Class World Championships since 2008, Impulse earned 15th place with a mark of 58.125. Canadian corps Les Stentors rounded out the Open Class field, tallying a 16th-place score of 55.200.
“I am very happy with our performance, said Les Stentors vocalist Marrie Catherine Tureon. “I am happy because everyone did a great job today and had a lot of fun doing it.”
THE COMPANY of Chesterfield, England, competed as the lone International Class corps and earned a score of 71.275.
The top 12 of these Open Class corps and THE COMPANY will reconvene in Michigan City Tuesday evening to crown a 2017 champion, before all 17 corps head to Indianapolis for Thursday's DCI World Championship Prelims.