Color guard finds success at international competition

Abby Mendez

The Bryan Color Guard kicked off the winter-guard season with seven out of ten competitors advancing in the Winter Guard International virtual competition. The team also placed first in the virtual Texas Color Guard Circuit and received superior ratings from both competitions.  

“It’s different because we normally prepare for live performances in our production and this year we are doing a combination of virtual competition and live performances,” color guard director Marie Debellis said. “When I’m critical, I have to look at it from the perspective of a camera. Which is very different from watching it live and being able to see it in person, so it’s difficult and it looks so different.”

One of the hardest adjustments for the team has been the lack of audiences and competitors at each competition. 

“Essentially, we went in and we didn’t cross paths with another group the whole day,” Debellis said. “It was very quiet and it was very eerie because normally there are concession stands and vendors, and the hustle and bustle of people watching you in warmup and there was no one. It was totally silent, totally dead, and it was just us. It was nice in ways because it allowed us to focus, but it was very different from what they’re used to.”

Jumping back into in-person competition at Texas Color Guard Circuit is refreshing for the returning members.

“Since we didn’t have marching season, that was the first competition we have had in about a year,” senior Alena Vitha said. “It’s been a long time, but when you have done something for four years like we have, it feels like we’re going back to normal. Overall, it’s pretty similar once you trigger that muscle memory of how it used to be, and it kind of just falls into place.”

At the Winter Guard International competition, the team submitted ten solos against entries from around the world, the largest competition pool they have ever competed against.

“It was really interesting because we have never competed on this level before as individuals,” Alena said. “We’re in the national class so we normally compete against people just from our country. So taking it a step further, it just felt a lot different. I’ve been kind of internalizing the fact that it is not just me in Texas, it’s not just Alena in Texas, its Alena in the world. Which is kind of a moving feeling when you realize the magnitude of the situation.”

While the team has done well competing in the virtual world, they have continued to face obstacles adjusting to the new environment.

“I think the biggest difference is in the audience,” senior Sarah Soloman said. “I think when you do a virtual recording you have maybe like three people there. We shouldn’t be getting our energy from the audience, but you have to rely on your own energy and feel the energy from the team around you in order to have a really good performance.”

Despite their success so far, the seniors want to continue to work on their performance and make it as strong as possible.

“I want to keep pushing myself to learn new tricks even though I’m a senior,” Sarah said. “I don’t want to be comfortable with the place I’m in right now and I want to keep growing and build consistency for the show.”

Senior Kamela Vitha wants to contribute to her legacy within the program and strengthen her team’s skill set.

“I broke my finger, and during that time I was working on dance tricks because that is all I could really do,” Kamela said. “I started a system where I would teach people tricks before practice. I’m kind of looking forward to continuing that with equipment this time, so with rifles and flags, and spreading the tricks and the love before I graduate so they have new stuff to pick up on next year.”

Even with the setbacks, the team has been fortunate to continue competing and coming together. 

“I just like the community we build because we spend so much time around each other,” Alena said. “We see a lot of each other, and it’s hard to not get close to each other. It’s just the community that drives me and pushes me and that’s why I love it so much.”

The team finished their recordings for the Winter Guard International Competition on April 11. If they advance with their recordings, they will move on to compete in the semi-finals. 

“I know this year has been different,” Debellis said. “There are a lot of things about it that really take away the excitement, but I just want them to have a good experience and be appreciative that they get to do it at all and to just have a good time with each other and make memories. Even though they are different, they are still memorable and fond.”