Schenectady County

Practice pays off for Mohonasen color guard

The varsity color guard team at Mohonasen High School traveled to Ohio earlier this month to comp


The varsity color guard team at Mohonasen High School traveled to Ohio earlier this month to compete in the Winter Guard International World Championship — a first for the district.

The 20-member team, led by Dan Jones, performed their routine “The Masquerade Party” at the event.

While the team didn’t make it past the semifinal round, just qualifying for the championships was a huge achievement.

“We wanted to make a name for ourselves,” Stephanie Gerhard, a member of the color guard, said of their commitment to performing to the best of their ability.

Jones’ goal since becoming director of the color guard program five years ago was to get his team to this level.

“The plan has been in place the last few years to grow the program and improve their training,” Jones said. “Now that they’ve seen what’s out there they’re a little more hungry.”

The team performed twice at the championships in Dayton, Ohio. They scored 83.366 in the preliminary round, and 80.95 in the semifinals.

“The prelims was very good but they fizzed out at the end, there were two or three visual mistakes,” Jones said. “The semifinals, while there were two or three mistakes, they completed the show with energy.”

The performance, set to “The Cello Song” by The Piano Guys, included masks, couches and a skipping Victrola. The Victrola allowed the students to have multiple “endings” to the routine — each ending signaling a new section of the piece, explained Timmy Wang, a senior color guard member.

The hardest part of the routine is not spinning a rifle or throwing a flag, Jones said.

“Half the battle is to get the voices out of their heads and have confidence,” he said. That’s hard when the team has to adjust to a bigger setting, bright lights and a screaming crowd, Jones said.

Before they could go from Rotterdam to Dayton — over 600 miles away — the team had some major fundraising to do.

“Our biggest obstacle was getting all the money for all 20 of us and our chaperones to go,” said Ashley Carpenter, a senior.

The total cost of the coach bus ride, hotel stay and other fees was just over $700 per person. Outside donations from Martin Harding & Mazzotti law firm, Mohawk Honda and Darcy Brem among others helped lower the per-person cost.

For the four seniors on the team, finally making it to worlds was a dream realized.

“I got emotional before our prelim performance. We have been dreaming of this,” said Carpenter, who has been involved in color guard for seven years. “You never know what could happen in the future.”

And she said she’s happy that the younger members of the team, including a handful of eighth-graders, get to see what is out there.

“It felt kind of surreal for me,” said Jocelyn Spencer, a senior. “I was just like, ‘what happened?’ Seven years ago I didn’t know what a flag was. It was bittersweet.”

That bittersweet feeling is leading Carpenter, Spencer and the two senior boys on the team — Chris Miller and Wang — to factor color guard into their college decisions.

The championships mark the end of the winter guard season. The team now moves into the less stressful and demanding parade season.

“We’ll graduate out seniors, and then we’ll start the cycle all over again,” Jones said.

That cycle includes a practice schedule totalling about 12 hours each week but after the championship competition the team members said they understand more why so much is expected of them. The hours of practice during the week, Saturday and Sunday practices, and weekend competitions are worth it.

“I had taken groups to Ohio at this level before and when I took on this job it was my goal,” Jones said. “And now I have to set new goals — we’re going to make finals.”

Categories: -News-, High School Sports

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