Colonial Heights' Color Guard Proves Successful
By David Breidenbach, Correspondent
May 7, 2014, 14:13
Pat Porter Photography
COLONIAL HEIGHTS—Recruiting for successful teams is difficult enough at Colonial Heights, but for one squad coming off what has arguably been their best ever season next year poses a big problem.
Despite the success the Color Guard/Winter Guard squad has had this season, the team will graduate six members and the remaining eight consist of six rising freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior.
“We are trying to recruit, but it’s hard because no one really knows what we are and what we do,” Color Guard leader Robert Custer said. “If we had half the support some of the other groups get, we would be unstoppable.”
So just who and what is this thing called Color Guard, and how has it managed to fly under the radar at a place like Colonial Heights High School?
Well truth is, everyone probably knows who this group is, but they just may not know that they are separate from the band. If you watch the band, or if you go to a Colonial Heights home football game, then you have probably seen the group in action. They are the people who wave flags, work out with guns, and carry swords onto the field while the band plays on.
But teaming up with the band is only half of what the Color Guard does. They have a second season called Winter Guard, technically called Sport of the Arts, which is really all about them. This season, Custer said, his team wanted to send their six senior members off with a bang. So they developed a new program called “Fling of Strings” which is based on playing a guitar. They created a fret board as a prop and added in strings that the team played as the visual aspect. The musical adaptation was a song called “Hope for me
Yet,” by Marc Broussard, a Lafayette, Louisiana, blues guitarist who plays a style called Bayou Soul.
Knowing that they had something good going on, Custer brought in some extra help in the form of Winter Guard International (WGI) Hall of Famer Sal Salas. Salas helped fine tune the group’s program and the results sort of speak for themselves. In five Atlantic Indoor Association (AIA) competitions in Virginia and North Carolina, the Colonials finished first each time. That made them tops in Virginia, where there are about 100 teams.
The team’s hopes to make it to the International Competition nearly came to a crashing halt due to the harsh winter. Both Regional National competitions they were supposed to appear were cancelled and a regional appearance is required to get to the International Competition. Things were looking tough for the Colonials, but the team was allowed to submit a video of their program to the WGI, which in turn selected them to appear in the International Competition in Dayton, Ohio, on April 3-5.
The team was scheduled to perform Thursday morning at 9 a.m., but they weren’t able to leave Virginia until school let out on the preceding Wednesday.
That resulted in a caravan leaving Colonial Heights and arriving in Dayton early Thursday morning, about eight hours before they were scheduled to perform.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have more sleep; we might have done better,” Custer said.
Pat Porter Photography
Still, the team had never made it to the International Competition before, so all of this was ground breaking news for the team. They were in competition against 125 other WGI groups, and finished with a score of 78.85, two places out of reaching the semi-finals.
“That’s really good,” Custer said. “It’s the best the team has ever done. We finished 56th overall.”
But the team faces an even bigger task for next year. With their team of 14 cut down to eight, they will be on the lookout for anyone who thinks they might like to replace their seniors: Ashleigh Tuck, Jordan Porter, Lauren Walwer, Julie Nichols, Savannah Stephenson, and Austin Blalock.
All they are looking for are people who have the heart and desire to perform, Custer said. Everything else can be taught. The team works five days a week and competitions are scheduled for Saturdays, so it’s not a walk in the park.
Hard work and dedication is what it takes to get to the International Competition, and now the team has been there once and can set that as their annual goal. They are ready to make another run for glory next year, they only need a little more support from their classmates to get it done.
“It’s hard to recruit because no one really knows what we are or what we do. But if you’re willing to work hard, nothing else really matters. You don’t need to be particularly athletic, body size and shape doesn’t matter, it’s just the willingness to come out and be a part of something that can be very special,” Custer said.