A score of 97.95 was more than enough to secure the top spot for the Blue Devils at the World Class World Championship Quarterfinals on Thursday, the first Drum Corps International event held in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Blue Devils continued their winning streak at the event as they took the first step toward what they hope will end in a World Championship title before the end of the weekend. Carolina Crown members continued breaking records this season with their highest Quarterfinals finish ever. They earned second place with a score of 96.10 and surpassed the Blue Devils' brass score by two tenths of a point. Holy Name Cadets joined Carolina Crown and the Blue Devils as medal contenders, taking third place with a score of 96.05, just a smidge behind Crown. The two jockeyed for position in the individual captions trading off the higher score in categories across the board. "We had a solid show tonight. We've been great in the domes so far this year. It's really exciting to be here to be getting ready to move onto the Semifinals and Finals competitions in the next two days," said Chris Anderson, a Blue Devils trumpet player. "We're trying to be perfect. We're looking for that 100-point score. This is my third year with the corps. This year is special. Unlike any corps I've ever been with, this group really gels. It feels like a family this year."
The brand new Lucas Oil Stadium became a studio stage on Thursday as tens of thousands of drum corps fanatics around the country joined fans in Indianapolis by way of a live broadcast to more than 400 movie theaters. "Big, Loud and Live 6" was the first cinema event to be shot and processed completely in high definition, giving fans the best viewing experience outside of Indianapolis yet. Carolina Crown trumpet player Tanner Smith said he really enjoyed performing in the stadium, which will be the home of the DCI World Championships for nearly the next decade. "Our performance tonight was great. The crowd was very responsive and the venue is fantastic and great acoustically," he said. "It was heartwarming to be in there and to be able to feel the vibe of the entire drum corps as you are marching on the field. On an outdoor field, you don't get the same reverb and all of the vibration of the sound you're creating. The Cavaliers earned a 95.85 and took fourth place, just ahead of Santa Clara Vanguard (5th, 95.50). A few points behind came the Bluecoats (6th, 92.65), followed by Phantom Regiment, who took 7th place with a 90.70.
Lucas Oil Stadium
Eric Taylor, a Phantom Regiment trumpet player and flugelhorn soloist, said, "There's an intensity you get playing in this horn line that you don't get anywhere else. I don't mean in any other corps, I mean in any other activity," the first-year member said. "It's an amazing feeling being involved with this corps because everybody is giving it their all. There's a power and an energy you get from it. Playing tonight on the field was incredible." Taylor said his only goal for every show is getting fans to their feet, and that goal was fulfilled on Thursday at the Quarterfinals. A score of 90.35 went to the 8th place Boston Crusaders, who finished less than a point ahead of the Blue Stars (9th, 89.95). Less than a point separated the Glassmen (10th, 87.75) and Blue Knights (11th, 87.00), while the Troopers took the last spot in the top 12 with a score of 86.05. The Colts secured their spot in the Semifinals competition Friday, taking 13th place with a score of 85.15.
Keenan Cox has been a member of the Colts for six years. He is marching his "age-out" year after coming back to the corps to fill an open position in July. "It's been a pretty trying season in a lot of ways. This year we have a lot of rookie members, but they've done really well. They all just jumped right into it," he said. "It's been a tremendous honor to be part of the corps this year. It's been great to see how far we've come this season." The Academy (14th, 83.90), Madison Scouts (15th, 83.50), Crossmen (16th, 81.90), and Spirit (17th, 80.70) represent the last four corps that will continue to the World Class Semifinals, starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Thursday night was the last day of the season for five corps. Mandarins, Pacific Crest, Jersey Surf, Pioneer and Cascades will not advance to the Semifinals competition Friday.
The Mandarins were awarded a score of 79.65, placing 18th in the Quarterfinals competition. William Winston, a fourth-year bass drummer who is aging out this year, said finishing up the season feels amazing. "There really are no words to describe it," he said. "This is the completion of something I've put a lot of time and effort into. It's really just a priceless feeling." Even though the corps is not advancing to the Semifinals, Mandarins visual caption head and staff coordinator Ron Munekawa said the season was an absolute success in his eyes. "Everything we asked the corps members to do, they did. We talked about making sure the tank is empty at the end of the show, there's absolutely nothing left," he said. Munekawa noted that the corps was extremely resilient, pushing on even after getting sick and working hard in spite of other challenges throughout the season. "I had one member come up to me and say 'The best thing about this is that I am doing and achieving things that I never dreamed I could do,'" he said. "To me, the season is a success when we have stories like that."
Nineteenth place went to Pacific Crest, who earned a score of 79.05 for the final performance of the corps' 2009 production, "El Corazon de la Gente," which depicts the vibrant lives of Latin American people. Fourth-year front field conductor Zachary Headden said 2009 was a great year for the corps. He said they started out strong compared to past years and members were really excited about the theme of the show. After a rough patch with lots of re-writes of the show's visual program, Headden said, "Things started taking off for us after we left California. We started racking up points, getting everything clean and becoming a tighter and tighter family. "One of the highlights of the season for me was getting to spend every day with my friends. They've definitely shown me what a true family can be," he said. "We're one of the stronger corps Pacific Crest has ever had. It definitely showed in Toledo, Ohio, when we broke 80 before the start of the World Championships. That's definitely a highlight for all of us." Headden said he was okay with Thursday's performance being the corps' last show of the season. "The past two years I really didn't want to end Thursday night. I still feel that way, but this group of members, my friends and family, showed me that none of that matters anymore. It's all about being together and doing our thing. We did everything we could."
Jersey Surf, in its first year as a World Class corps, earned 20th place and a score of 78.55. Surf drum major Jason Grasso has seen first hand how the corps has grown while he marched with them for the last six years. "I've been here from board shorts to Elvis wigs, all the way to the first year of being in the World Class. It's truly amazing how well we're doing this year. Everything about it has been amazing." Grasso said the members had to adjust this year to the more extensive tour and rehearsal schedule that accompanied the corps in its jump to the World Class. She said the corps members worked through the challenges and ended with a very strong product at the end of this season. Pioneer took 21st place at the Quarterfinals competition with a final score of 75.75. Aaron Gates, a fifth-year front ensemble member of Pioneer, said the accomplishment he was most proud of in 2009 was "finally not being in last place," adding that the corps saw tons of growth over the course of the season.
"We had a great performance today, just fantastic. All around, it's been a really great summer. The pit started out really strong and we ended strong," said Gates. "I've enjoyed seeing the horn line mature these past couple weeks. They've come a long way, as has the entire corps. I'm really proud of everyone." Donny Allen, brass arranger and caption head for the corps, excitedly shouted their score out as the performers gathered after exiting the field. "Unbelievable progress" were the words Allen used to describe Pioneer's 2009 season. "The kids gave the best they could give and that's all we really ask for at the end of the year. They worked hard all year long," he said. "The show was a little more difficult than past years and we asked them to do quite a bit as a staff—we push them really hard, but they really responded at the end of the year and did a great job. We have no regrets." The Cascades returned to the Drum Corps International stage after a year of absence, earning 22nd place with a score of 74.95 with their program, titled "Beyond the Forest."
Sal Leone, director of the Cascades, was very pleased with the corps' last performance on Thursday. "We certainly wanted this to be our best one and I think it was. We're so proud of these kids. They had to come through a lot of adversity because we had to start from scratch with a brand new corps, and we're just so excited about what we accomplished," he said. "We had a whole fresh start. It was a great summer, the tour went well, everyone had fun, we bonded as a family, and I'm looking forward to a very high member retention rate for next year." Mandi Hilliker a Cascades color guard member who is aging out this year, said she wouldn't even have thought about marching with a different corps for her last year. "I started in Cascades and I definitely have a commitment to my corps. I love my corps," she said, also explaining how happy she was with their last performance. "I didn't pay attention to what was going on outside of the field until we hit the last moment—it was surreal. I definitely left a part of me on the field." The top 17 corps will go head to head again in the World Championship Semifinals Friday, Aug. 7 in the quest to be one of the top 12 corps that will advance to the Finals competition on Saturday. View a complete recap of scores from the World Class Quarterfinals competition. Not in Indy? Catch all the action from the World and Open Class Semifinals competitions Friday by logging on the Fan Network to watch the live Webcasts, presented by Gary P. Gilroy Publications, all day long. Visit TheFanNework.org to register for this event. Contributors: Justin Herberger, Christina Mavroudis, Craig Olear, Johnny Gilbert