SAN ANTONIO — As the puzzle of the 2019 DCI season begins to fill up and pieces start falling into place, so too does the outlook of what corps may be competing on the final day of the season.
The DCI Southwestern Championship presented by Fred J. Miller, Inc. — the first meeting of all 22 World Class corps — provided a snapshot of how things are shaking out competitively across the board. Of course, with three weeks left until the season concludes in Indianapolis, things can change.
As of now, though, the competitive landscape is much clearer — most notably the ever-blurry cutoff line for the coveted Top 12, the corps that will advance to the DCI World Championship Finals in August.
Saturday’s Alamodome event offered perspective. Yes, every World Class corps is currently chasing Bluecoats, who won the event with a score of 91.213 points. But, beyond that, there’s a handful nipping at the heels of Phantom Regiment, who finished 12th in San Antonio with a score of 80.613.
Just as Bluecoats, in a sense, control their own destiny to a gold in Indianapolis, Regiment has the same luxury en route to a 46th straight Finals berth.
“I connect with this show so much that I can’t foresee this not making it to the DCI Finals,” Phantom Regiment drum major Claire Wilcox said. “I can’t predict the future but I do know this show has something for everyone in my opinion.”
After San Antonio, Regiment’s 12th-place cushion sits at less than two points thanks to a 78.875 score from Spirit of Atlanta. The Academy (14th, 77.513) and Colts (15th, 76.725), aren’t far behind either.
“We’re definitely improving with every contest that we’re going to,” Spirit of Atlanta drum major Bailey Burks said. “There shouldn’t be any divide based on what kind of contest we’re at.”
For now, though, Spirit is the biggest threat to jump ahead of Regiment and onto the right side of the Top-12 cutline, a spot they were in to start the season.
In their first meeting in Evansville, Indiana on June 24, Spirit, which last earned a Top 12 spot in 2013, topped Phantom Regiment by more than a point. Four days later in Muncie, Indiana, their advantage had grown to nearly a point and a half.
Then Phantom Regiment started to close the gap. After falling to Spirit in a loss by a margin of just a quarter of a point in Rochester, Minnesota, Regiment springboarded to more than a point advantage less than a week later in Lexington, South Carolina.
The Rockford, Illinois corps hasn’t looked back since, holding the edge over Spirit in their next seven meetings.
“We did have a lot of changes in the past week and also the past couple of weeks,” Wilcox said. “We put on a completely new closer with smoke effects and more.
“It’s helped the show so much. With the design changes, I think the show makes so much more sense the more and more they’ve dissected it and looked at it and adjusted things. It has made the concept clearer which makes us more convincing.”
The Academy and Colts certainly have more ground to make up than Spirit, but still remain in contention for a spot in the Top 12. Both are familiar being on the edge of the cutline.
“Tonight is probably the most important show of the year,” Academy drum major Sierra Rogers said. “It’s becoming more and more important to stay competitive and to stay relevant.”
Last season, The Academy, which secured its lone Finals appearance in 2016, finished 13th in San Antonio before ending the season in 15th. Colts, on the other hand, haven’t earned a Top 12 berth since 2007, but, in that 11-year span has finished 13th and 14th three times each.
“It was very important to put on a great show tonight up against all the other corps,” Colts drum major Elijah Elmshaeuser said. “We really wanted to make a big impact with everyone in the DCI community and say, ‘Hey, we’re still here. We’re ready to make a push and here’s what we’ve got.’”
All corps will continue jockeying for position as the DCI Tour heads to Georgia for the next marquee event, the DCI Southeastern Championship presented by Lone Star Percussion.