It was the closest of victories at the 2008 Drum Corps International World Championship Finals in Bloomington, Ind. By only 0.025 points, Phantom Regiment passed the Blue Devils to take the gold medal and their second Championship title. Phantom Regiment (98.125) moved forward one placement from Quarterfinals to Semifinals, and from Semifinals to Finals in their quest for the Championship trophy. The Blue Devils (2nd, 98.100) took the silver medal as they walked the yard-line tightropes of Memorial Stadium one final time, and the Cavaliers (3rd, 97.325) received the bronze after the thunder of their taiko drums faded into the cool and clear summer night. Phantom Regiment's Finals night performance was marked by infectious crowd energy, with calls of "I am Spartacus" coming from the stands during their competitive performance and again later during the awards ceremony. Phantom Regiment last captured a Championship title in 1996 when they tied the Blue Devils for the gold medal. This season marks their first outright Championship win, as well as a capstone achievement to their previous performances of "Spartacus" in 1981 and 1982.
Phantom Regiment members embrace after
winning the '08 World Championship title.
winning the '08 World Championship title.
"I'm so happy that we could light this crowd up," said Will Pitts, Phantom Regiment's conductor who aged out this season. Following their "Spartacus" theme through to the end, Pitts reported for the awards ceremony in an unusual way. Speared and usurped as conductor during the finale of Phantom's field production, Pitts was dragged onto the field for the all-corps retreat, still playing possum, and was left under a death shroud in the middle of the drum major lineup. Lori Valenzuela, wife of Phantom Regiment director Rick Valenzuela, expressed her pride at Regiment's gold-medal finish to crown a summer of hard work. She said, "It's been a long summer and I'm so proud of this corps, I'm so proud of this staff, I'm so proud of my husband because I was there from the very beginning watching this thing develop in the office, on the field, and everything that they've gone through has been amazing, absolutely amazing. I thought I was going to have to pick my husband up off the floor when he heard how close the score was."
Phantom Regiment celebrates after winning the 2008 DCI World Class Championship.
Blue Devils executive director David Gibbs had many words of praise for his corps, saying, "[You can] never get upset, we've obviously been in this spot many a time. We're the most decorated drum corps in the world. We've had seconds, we've had thirds, and what counts is the kids' performance tonight. They're the best performing drum corps with the most unique show that's ever been put on a football field. " "It's awesome!" said Corey Robinson, age-out guard captain for the Blue Devils as he stood on the field during the awards ceremony. "It's just amazing to come out to Finals and to do what you do best, perform your heart out. Things work out the way they are, but we had the performance of our lives. I wish I could do it again but I can't. "The Blue Devils is a great place to work and the members are incredibly talented every year," said Scott Chandler, program coordinator and color guard designer for the Blue Devils. About the corps' award-winning guard this season, he noted, "This was a very young group – there are only five age-outs in this group. But they come from a lot of talented places with a lot of talented instructors, and we really appreciate their hard work and commitment." The Blue Devils production, "Constantly Risking Absurdity," owes its inspiration to beat poetry about the treachery of navigating an artistic high-wire. "You never know if you're going to fall off or if you're going to make it all the way across," Chandler said about the Blue Devils own "absurd" forays this season. "We made it across tonight." Highlighted by the corps' powerful "Samurai" program, Cavaliers director Bruno Zuccala was pleased with his group's finish to its 60th anniversary season. Zuccala said, "The guys had the performance of a lifetime tonight. There were some great drum corps out there and we are just very happy with the job they did today. This summer we grew day by day getting better and better as a drum corps, and finally we met the highpoint tonight so we're happy about that." The bulk of the caption awards went to the Blue Devils this evening. Awarded in a tournament style based on the averages of scores over three nights, the Blue Devils received the Jim Ott Best Brass Award, the George Zingali Color Guard Award, and the Best Visual Performance commendation. Phantom Regiment received the Spirit of Disney award, the Don Angelica Award for Best General Effect, and the Fred Sanford High Percussion award.
Carolina Crown placed fourth this evening with a score of 96.800, the highest World Championship finish ever for the organization. "Marching with Crown has been a pleasure," said Justine Fugate, who aged-out this year as the corps' guard captain. "It has been the most amazing, life changing experience, and I'm so blessed to be a part of it." Fugate imparted a bit of wisdom to future corps members before leaving the field for the last time. She said, "Don't hold back, do everything with your heart full out with your passion out there for the crowd to see. " The Cadets received a score of 94.750 and placed fifth. "Today was the best show of the year hands down," said Cadets assistant director Justin Heimbecker. "Each of these three nights we got better and better, and those performances were all better than the ones before that. That's all you can hope for. There was a lot of development with our show as far as the design process goes. But the one thing that remained consistent was that the members woke up every day and they worked hard. Forget the scores, forget the judges, forget the placements; they were just looking to make the best product they could, and they absolutely succeeded in that goal." A sixth place finish was in store for the Bluecoats, with a score of 93.175 highlighted by a third-place finish in the percussion caption. Mike Huebner, a third-year member of the Bluecoats in his first as drum major, said, "Tonight's show was phenomenal. It's the reason we've been working so hard the entire summer. This was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but in the end you get a warm feeling inside and you know that's the reason why you've put in all this time."
In seventh place was the Santa Clara Vanguard, with a score of 93.025. After two years marching as a cymbal player with the Vanguard Cadets and five years in Vanguard "A" corps, Brandon McVeigh has ended his junior corps career and is proud of what he's accomplished. He said, "As we formed the final V [on the field with the cymbals], I was trying to take it all in. I don't have any regrets after this season. I'm going to try to be firefighter, and Vanguard and the drum corps experience has definitely set me up for what it takes to pursue a career like that." Making it into the World Championship Finals for the first time in 29 years, the Blue Stars posted a score of 90.425 and an eighth place finish. Tyler Athanon aged-out with the Blue Stars after five years as a member of the brass section. He said, "Today's show was amazing, especially because it was my first time in the Finals. It was great to see the crowd from the other side. Looking back, I have no regrets about marching. Drum corps has taught me to persevere and that I can do anything I want to do in life." The Blue Knights ended the 2008 season in 9th place with a score of 88.250. "Our corps has come a long way this season," said age-out drum major Ashley Drayer, who has participated in drum corps for six years. "We've grown and worked together and we've accomplished so much … way more than any of us thought we ever could. I've grown so much with everyone here. I feel like I have 149 brothers and sisters."
Santa Clara Vanguard
Scoring 87.275 and finishing in 10th place were the Boston Crusaders. Euphonium player Jose Eslava said, "Today's show was really emotional. When I was marching, everything just felt perfect. I would never trade this experience for anything else. Drum corps has taught me to be a family and how to get along with your peers and a lot of time management. It's not about the show and it's not about the scores, it's about how you interact with the people around you and how you care for them." An 11th place finish and a score of 87.200 closed the books on the 2008 Glassmen. "Today was above and beyond anything I had ever hoped for," said Nicole Holderman, who was a fourth-year member of the Glassmen color guard in 2008. "It was fantastic. This has been such a great season and I'm sad to see that it's all over after all these years." Returning to the Finals this year in the last qualifying spot were the Madison Scouts, who placed 12th with a score of 85.225. David Vonbehren, a third-year member of the Madison Scouts, marched this season with the corps' resurrected cymbal line. He said, "Today's performance was unlike any other performance I've ever had in my life. The day went by so fast and everything was so perfect. It felt like a huge fairytale and it's just a great time to be a Madison Scout." As the next volume of Drum Corps International history is put on the shelf with the conclusion of the 2008 Summer Tour, fans will already look forward to the excitement that is bound to return next year as the 2009 DCI World Championships return to Indiana, kicking off in Michigan City, Ind. for the Open Class Quarterfinals on Aug. 4 and continuing on through Aug. 8 in Indianapolis at the brand new Lucas Oil Stadium.
With video, photos and assistance by Robert Cawthorne, Corey Davis, Johnny Gilbert, Christina Mavroudis, Josh Peterson, Chris Weber, Amy Wiggs.