Spinning to Dayton

Varsity winter guard gets ready for first ever World Championships April 6-10

Rebecca Jacobsen, Staff Writer

In the year 2020, the varsity winter guard team was preparing to travel to the Winter Guard International World Championships for the first time. But, like so many other opportunities in 2020, it was canceled due to Covid.

“We all cried. It was upsetting because we had worked so hard to go to Worlds and then everything just shut down. And we had more competitions in between Worlds, so that kind of sucked that we didn’t get to go to any of those either. It just hit super hard,” senior Katelyn Handley said.

Now, fast forward to spring 2022. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” (performed by Sammy Rae and the Friends) echoes in MN’s quiet gym while flags swirl and spin into the air. The girls in the front of the gym drop to the floor, working through their dance choreography to the music. The team is practicing hard for their long-awaited debut at WGI World Championships, taking place April 6 to April 10 in Dayton, Ohio.

“[Varsity’s show is] called The Corporate Ladder and it’s about how girls and women can climb the corporate ladder and break through the glass [ceiling]. We call our show ‘Girl Bosses.’ It’s about how we can climb the corporate ladder and we don’t need a man. And how women are sometimes underpaid doing the same job as a man can,” freshman Kassidy Smith said.

To be able to compete at WGI World Championships, a team needs only to sign up. In MN’s case, the growth of the team was displayed as their scores at competitions began to rise. This showed that the team was ready to compete at Worlds, prompting winter guard coach Allison Goodman to sign them up. 

To ensure they perform their best at Worlds, the varsity winter guard team practices every Sunday from 4 to 9. Many of them go above and beyond by attending additional weapons sectionals on Monday nights and spinning on their own during JV winter guard’s practices on Thursday nights. However, it’s not just the amount of time spent at practice–it’s what occurs during practice that counts, whether it is negative or positive experiences. 

“Some of us get in our heads sometimes, so that brings the team down, and then we don’t do as well as we really want to. [One of our challenges is] thinking of the team as a whole instead of just ourselves,” Handley said. 

Although practices can be tough, the team perseveres and makes it to the end, encouraging one another. 

“When people are in their heads and down, we’re good about bringing each other up, and making sure that we know what’s going on–just keeping everybody in check,” Handley said.

This positive attitude has proved to be a crucial aspect of continuing to improve, even when the team does not perform as well in competitions as they desire to.

“Honestly, out of the gate this season we haven’t been scoring as well as Millard North varsity typically does. And a big part of that is because we’re so young and inexperienced. But they’ve [the team] decided that that’s not going to impact them, and they’re still going to have a good season and they’re still going to put their best foot forward,” Goodman said.

In this vein, the team has adopted a growth mindset by listening to judges’ tapes after competitions and taking the comments to heart. 

“They listen to the judges’ tapes and then they immediately implement it into practice,” Goodman said.

Performing is one aspect of the show the team focuses on improving during practice–“Smiling, acting as your character,” Smith said.

“Goodman always says practice makes perfect. We perform at practice so it’s not weird when we go into our actual performance for a competition. It’s not like, ‘What am I doing with my face, this is weird for my body.’ You start practicing it [performing] at the beginning of the season so it carries to all the competitions,” Handley said. 

While the team has worked hard to improve their show, that doesn’t always mean the outcome of a competition directly reflects the progress they have made.

“Sometimes your scores don’t really show how hard you’ve been working, and sometimes they do, and that’s really a good feeling. It could go either way,” Smith said. 

No matter what the results are at the WGI World Championships, the varsity winter guard team will walk away with a brand-new experience.