It's a race for first place in the Open Class after the World Championship Semifinals today in Bloomington, Ind. Blue Devils B (1st, 95.850) maintained their hold on the top position while the Vanguard Cadets (2nd, 95.600) and Jersey Surf (3rd, 95.425) closed the scoring gap to less than half a point. The 12 Open Class corps headed to tomorrow's Finals competition were determined by today's results as the competition kicked off bright and early in the Indiana sun at Memorial Stadium.
"That was our strongest show of the year," said Steve Barnhill, brass caption head for the Vanguard Cadets. "The kids walked into this big arena and stepped up to the challenge. They were ready to go, we prepared them, and I think they really put on the best show of the year. It was quite exhilarating to watch them." Barnhill predicted a strong Open Class Finals performance for the Vanguard Cadets, saying, "They've made the corrections we've asked for, and they're as ready as we could ever get anybody to go. I think they're just going to relax, have fun, and put on an even better show tomorrow."
Blue Devils B and the Vanguard Cadets have much in common. Both are West-coast corps, both are part of the parent organizations of many-time World Class Champions, and after the Divisions II & III were combined this past fall, both are gunning for the first-ever Open Class title. But according to Blue Devils B drum major John Lee, there's no animosity between the two corps. Lee said, "The two corps mingle, there are lots of friends and lots of interconnections. It is a battle – I'll use that word – it is a battle all the way through. And it does get intense sometimes. But overall there's this level of professionalism along with a level of friendly rivalry." The first place finishes in captions and sub-captions were split among the top three corps, with Blue Devils B taking overall General Effect, Jersey Surf capturing first in total Visual, and the Vanguard Cadets holding the top score in Music. Also qualifying for the Open Class World Championship Finals were the Oregon Crusaders (4th, 93.325), Teal Sound (5th, 92.900), Citations (6th, 91.525), Spokane Thunder (7th, 90.750), Revolution (8th, 88.375), Raiders (9th, 86.600), Dutch Boy (10th, 86.525), Memphis Sound (12th, 85.475) and Yamato (13th, 85.250). Beatrix (11th, 85.525) will also compete at the Finals as an International Class corps. Spartans (14th, 82.700), Legends (15th, 82.000), Velvet Knights (16th, 81.575), 7th Regiment (17th, 78.375), and Impulse (18th, 77.300) ended their 2008 summer tours in Bloomington today. Members of the corps were excited with how their seasons finished out.
Taylor Dub?©, 14, is a first-year color guard member with the Spartans. When asked about her performance today, she said, "It was actually really good. I had some fumbles, but I made good recoveries and the energy out there was just amazing." Dub?© was inspired to join a drum corps by her grandmother, and she said, "My nana's been taking me to shows ever since I was one. My first parade was with her when I was four years old with the Light Brigade Senior Corps. A little less than a month ago she died in a car accident, so this show today was for her." Legends ended their first ever competitive season today, and their very first and only age-out member this year is tenor drummer Evan Follmar. Recapping on the corps' inaugural competitive season, one of his fondest memories of the season is the drum line's pre-show warm-up. He said, "Right before we go on, the tenors always clasp hands, give a nice firm handshake before every show. And every time, whether it's the first show or the last show we play together, we give it our all. That's the moment for me that's really going to make it all worthwhile."
"It can be hot, tiring, and sometimes frustrating, but I love it," said Adam Stevens, who finished his rookie year with the Velvet Knights as a tenor drummer. "This is why I paid my tour dues, and this is why I get up every morning. To eat that food, to wear these drums all day in the heat and humidity … shoot, I even had a knee brace on a couple of times after an injury, and I'm still doing what I'm doing. I love it, and I don't want to stop." Michael Gentile had a truly memorable moment as he was conducting 7th Regiment's performance today. He said, "There was a baritone and contra feature in the ballad, and everything about it was just perfect. They had absolutely perfect intonation. I had chills and tears, and it started then. They had an unbelievable show, and everyone was in the right spot. I'll quote our director, Jeff Dozier, 'We've got our foot in the door of DCI and we're kicking it down.' We're going places no one ever expected us to go." Gentile had another reason to celebrate today—he turned 20, and said of his birthday, "That show was basically the greatest birthday present I could have ever had."
Kelly Lee has a son, Kyle, who marches as a mellophone player with Impulse. She related a story about her son overcoming challenges to march this season, saying, "He recently had scoliosis repair in February. He planned it so that he could be here to march this summer. He was home for about six weeks, went back to school at the end of April, and went to the first rehearsal camp with Impulse in the middle of May, and the doctor gave him the go-ahead. He's been going ever since. He's been doing awesome, and he just plugs right along – nothing will stop him. This is his life." The Open Class Finals will take place tomorrow morning beginning at 10 a.m. in Memorial Stadium. At stake is the inaugural title of Open Class World Champion, and the chance to perform in exhibition at the World Class Finals tomorrow evening. Fans will be watching with bated breath, as this historic season will come down to the wire.
With photos and assistance by Christina Mavroudis.