MHS Winterguard First Time Competing in Open Class at WGI

Daisy Ann Hipolito, Reporter

     On April 3 2019, MHS’ competitive Winterguard arrived in Dayton, Ohio to compete in this year’s Winter Guard International (WGI). The Mililani Winterguard competes at WGI every other year, though this year was the team’s first time competing in the Open Class of the Scholastic division. There are two divisions at WGI: Scholastic, in which all high school teams compete within, and Independant, where all graduated teams continue to compete in. Each division has the same three classes: A, Open, and World, each class getting progressively more serious and competitive. The 2019 Mililani Winterguard was not only the first Hawai’i group to compete in the Open Class but first group to qualify as well for Open Class semifinals.

The Mililani Winterguard prepared anywhere from 20-30 hours a week. Preparation included 12 hour long rehearsals as well as preparation camps where the team would practice extensively on weekends. “The preparation for WGI is different from field season. During field season we focus on forms, how in time we are to each other, it’s also important in indoor season but we focus in the quality and the performance impact we leave with the audience,” said Senior Jeffrey Butac. Freshman Kaleohano Pelletier added, “Preparation for WGI was extremely intense; we spent approximately 20 hours each week to make sure we can score as high as we possibly can.”

The Mililani Winterguard team is composed of a variety of hand selected students from the school’s colorguard. In previous years, Mililani had qualified for A Class finals, which allowed them to advance to Open Class.  “Being promoted to open class was a new thing for Mililani. I wanted to continue the streak of making history so I worked hard to do my best in this show,” said Senior Teonie Lam. “Having other guard members (and) random strangers come up to us after we perform to tell us how much they loved our show is the biggest compliment I could receive. It makes all the hard work worth it and I strive to hear that at least once for every season.”

Lam has been in colorguard for three years, this being her first WGI competition. “At first, I didn’t have high expectations for us. Whenever I watched another guard in the mainland, I felt like that guard was superior to us,” said Lam. “Our directors would push us to be better by giving us a lot of constructive feedback so there is always something to improve on, which is one of the reasons why I didn’t think we were that good. I was really scared that we’d come home with nothing.”

Before going on to the preliminary round, the Mililani Winterguard ranked 42 out of 51 teams. By the end of the competition, the Mililani team ranked 26 out of the 51 teams. “I am extremely proud of everyone on our color guard team for doing their very best. Being the only guard from Hawai’i to make it to semifinals wasn’t unexpected if I’m being honest, we have some of the best designers in the industry,” said Pelletier. “We were the first group from Hawai’i to make it into semi-finals in open class. It felt amazing to be able to say that we’re the first to do so. It was very shocking to see that in semi-finals, we scored higher than the groups that originally placed higher than us in prelims,” Lam added. “I’m very proud to have accomplished something and make history by being the first group to do this. When we’re up there, we don’t feel like we’re the best. So seeing how far we went up into the ranks was pretty cool. Our directors have said that we surpassed their expectations and that they’re very proud of us. I think the biggest reward was hearing them say that to us.”

Preparation for upcoming shows and competitions have already begun. “Our directors have said that this group has exceeded their expectations. So now I think they’ll strive to get into finals for open class. We’ve already accomplished so much above OIA and state titles that our focus is on national competitions,” said Lam. Pelletier added, “If we make huge improvements to each and every one of our skill sets and mental preparedness, there is a possibility to make it to Finals by 2021 when we compete again at WGI. The entire marching band and color guard will be competing at Bands of America (BOA) in Indianapolis, Indiana later this year.”

The color guard has three more shows scheduled for this year on April 14, 18 and 20 2019. If the team stays on schedule, they will be seen at BOA in 2020 and WGI again in 2021.