Santa Clara Vanguard's impressive breakout season kicked into high gear at Saturday's DCI Eastern Classic in Allentown, Pennsylvania, as the corps earned a first-place score of 95.000 in one of drum corps' most historic locations.
Driven by wins in overall general effect, overall visual, and percussion, Vanguard's strong score Saturday night at J. Birney Crum Stadium showed how much a difference a year can make, with the corps marking a nearly three-point improvement from the same event in 2016.
“The corps definitely brought it tonight,” drum major Christopher Harper said. “They were on fire the whole time, and the crowd just ate it up.”
Harper said looking forward, Vanguard has every intention to be in the best position possible as the corps heads to Indianapolis next weekend for the DCI World Championships.
“The mentality that we've been having is that we want to go on as late as possible at Lucas Oil Stadium this coming weekend,” he said. “There's been this crazy determination, this crazy fire that everyone's been stoking this entire season, and it's been getting more and more intense.”
Continuing to hang just behind Vanguard, Carolina Crown (2nd, 94.463) took home top honors in the brass and overall music captions. A newly-added ending to the corps' “It Is” production has added some excitement coming into the season's final week as Crown quietly builds momentum toward a potential upset.
“We've been rehearsing to work out the little (flaws) that keep us from having a perfect show,” said Eric Zielsdorf, a member of Carolina Crown's front ensemble percussion section. “Over this next week we're focusing on having the most perfect show we can.”
Crown's gap from The Cavaliers (3rd, 92.450) grew substantially in just two night's time, after having led by just seven tenths on Thursday in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Nonetheless, the Green Machine finished off a hot week on the scoresheets with second-place finishes in color guard and visual proficiency, to gain some momentum heading into World Championships Week.
“We had a very strong run,” Cavaliers tenor player Avery Lane Melucci said about the corps' Allentown performance. “We're hungry enough and mature enough to the point that I know at the end of the season we're going to have three perfect shows in a row at Lucas Oil Stadium.”
The Boston Crusaders (4th, 91.188) — having gained a lead over The Cadets for the first time in three decades back in mid-July — continues to hold a slim advantage over the Allentown corps.
Despite finishing just outside of fourth place in the corps' hometown show, The Cadets (5th, 90.838) certainly brought the energy, pulling the audience out of its seats with the powerful closing movement of its production, “The Faithful, The Fallen, The Forgiven.”
“We have lots of members of the corps who are from Allentown and the area, so it was just really fun to be on the field and hear people's names called out from the audience,” drum major Claire Albrecht said. “It's always fun for us to vibe off of the hype that the crowd gives us.”
Coming in sixth with a score of 88.488, the Blue Knights continue to build momentum heading into World Championships Week, as they look to fend off Phantom Regiment in what has been one of the tightest competitive races this summer.
Also with deep history in the Allentown region and many fans and alumni in attendance at Saturday's event, Crossmen's performance earned a seventh-place finish with a score of 86.150.
“Going into Finals Week, it all goes back to doing everything for each other and squeezing out every last ounce of energy we have in this show,” drum major Zachary Sheller said.
The Academy once again scored within two points of the Scouts, finishing in ninth place with a tally of 82.650. The corps' 1.35-point deficit behind the Scouts marks the lowest it's been in more than two weeks.
With Saturday's performance, the Oregon Crusaders (10th, 77.300) opened up a lead of 2.425 points on Genesis (11th, 74.875), the biggest it's held over the Austin, Texas corps this season.
“It's really about sticking together and being a family,” said Nathan Peterson, a baritone player for the Cascades. “Pushing through this last week, we just need to show what the Cascades have and what we have together. It's just about rising to the occasion and giving back to the audience.”
With the competition in Allentown wrapped up and just a few events remaining on the 2017 DCI Tour schedule, the focus now shifts to the DCI World Championships, which kick off for Open Class corps on Monday in Michigan City, before moving to Indianapolis for three days of competition starting Thursday.
Despite taking place across two days, the DCI Eastern Classic is scored by the same judging panel both nights. The results after combining the scores from Friday's and Saturday's events:
1st – Blue Devils, 95.513
2nd – Santa Clara Vanguard, 95.000
3rd – Carolina Crown, 94.463
4th – Bluecoats, 93.400
5th – The Cavaliers, 92.450
6th – Boston Crusaders, 91.188
7th – The Cadets, 90.838
8th – Blue Knights, 88.488
9th – Phantom Regiment, 87.000
10th – Blue Stars, 86.500
11th – Crossmen, 86.150
12th – Madison Scouts, 84.000
13th – Mandarins, 82.725
14th – The Academy, 82.650
15th – Colts, 81.025
16th – Troopers, 79.463
17th – Spirit of Atlanta, 78.063
18th – Oregon Crusaders, 77.300
19th – Pacific Crest, 76.150
20th – Genesis, 74.875
21st – Seattle Cascades, 72.225
22nd – Jersey Surf, 70.475
23rd – Pioneer, 65.525