BHS Winter Guard wins state title

Emma Marshall (top) and Natalia Distefano have some fun as they work on their routine at practice Wednesday. - John Becerra Jr./Staff Photo
Emma Marshall (top) and Natalia Distefano have some fun as they work on their routine at practice Wednesday.
— image credit: John Becerra Jr./Staff Photo

(A correction was made to this story to change the name of the girl who was struck with the rifle. The Review apologizes for the error.)

Three years ago, when Alisa Mitchell took over the reins as head coach of the Bainbridge Winter Guard team, there were just three members.

At that year’s Northwest Pagentry Association Championships, they were dead last.

“We bombed out – badly,” Mitchell said.

But thanks to a lot of hard work, collecting new members (the team now has 15) and some creativity, Bainbridge was rewarded for its efforts with a state title at this year’s Northwest Pagentry Association Championships Saturday at Auburn High School.

Bainbridge outscored Kennedy Catholic High School 83.1-82.3 in the Scholastic Regional A division. At several other competitions, Bainbridge had come in second to Kennedy Catholic.

It’s the first time that Bainbridge has won a title in a Winter Guard competition. Last year, BHS took eighth at the same competition.

The team was created in August 2007 as an expansion of the school’s Color Guard team that was started the year before. While color guard is based outdoors and usually part of the marching band, Winter Guard usually takes part in indoor competitions. There, they are judged on their performance, with participants performing interpretive dance routines to recorded music using equipment such as flags, rifles and sabres.

“To get first at state this year was just a huge accomplishment,” Mitchell said. “It’s such a big jump and these girls have worked so hard for it.”

Junior co-captain Amanda Swanson, one of the three that were on the team when Mitchell took over, said her flexibility is the key to the team’s success.

“She’s always been really great about letting us experiment,” Swanson said. “She even let me choreograph a couple of parts of the (routine). She lets us have free rein on what we can do. It’s been really beneficial to have a guard like that.”

Mitchell, who performed at the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when she was 16, said letting the team experiment and use their creativity is a major part of her coaching philosophy.

The team practices 10 hours a week with members working on their routines at home as well.

Injuries are common as among the tossing of rifles which can weigh up to three pounds. During a performance Hannah Nash mistimed a toss with a rifle once and got hit in the head with the butt of the gun. Mitchell said at every practice someone comes away with a bump or a bruise.

But they still love to do it and will do so at a higher level next year.

Mitchell said her goals are to start a program at the middle school level and ultimately make the team feel like a family.

“I want them to feel like everyone has a place here,” she said.

John Becerra Jr./Staff photo

(L-R) Brigitte Milne, Harper Anderson, Amanda Swanson and Cassie Schaaf work on their routines at practice Wednesday.



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