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Winter guard teams glide to the top

They wield rifles and flags and sabres (oh my!), but they do it with grace.

Three local high school teams – from Olympic, South Mecklenburg and Providence – concluded the season this month by winning top spots in championship competitions.

Olympic and South Meck’s indoor percussion teams, which performed in the same competitions, also won first place in their divisions.

For competitions, the winter guard teams dance – and toss – in a routine set to a song of their choice.

Olympic High’s eight-member team came in second place at the Carolina Indoor Performance Association championships at Western Carolina University.

“When we got called for second... we were in tears we were so happy,” said Lexie Simerly, a senior and team captain.

Lexie has been doing winter guard since she was a freshman, and for her first two years, the team took fourth place and didn’t fare well last year. “Coming out of the dust and taking second this year, that was a big boom moment for all the girls,” she said.

But winter guard isn’t just a fun hobby: Lexie said they practice more than 100 hours each month and have intense warm-ups with jumping jacks, crunches, running laps and push-ups.

“You must have a lot of stamina and a lot of endurance to go through with this,” she said.

Providence’s team of 22 took first place in their division – in winter guard lingo, its “class” – which was the highest class, at the Carolina Winter Ensemble Association championships at Winthrop University. They performed to Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love.”

Providence’s band director died last year, and Elizabeth Lattimore, a co-captain, said the team was inspired to win last year in his honor (which they did), then were determined to succeed again this year.

“While we still wanted to honor his memory, we saw our potential from last year and want to continue to grow as a program,” she said.

Winter guard performances also stress evoking particular emotions. All three teams, for the most part, gave performances meant to be sad.

“We worked on our sad faces a lot,” Elizabeth said. “While you’re performing, you’re also exercising and can get really caught up in it... (so) that you forget to keep the performance on your face too. It definitely takes practice.”

Carrie Sanford, the captain of South Mecklenburg’s nine-member team, which took first place in its division at Winthrop, agreed.

“You definitely have to dig deep into yourself to find your saddest moment,” Carrie said. Her team performed “The Piano” by Daisy Chapman.

But there wasn’t total sadness. The Olympic team performed to “Turning Pages” by Sleeping at Last, which was featured in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” soundtrack. The story told how two lovers struggle to find the words to express themselves but in the end, rejoice because they are able to say how much they love each other. The team’s director, Ahmez Nash, said the guard formed a big red heart on the floor at the end to show the love.

The captains said they value the opportunity of self-expression that comes with winter guard.

“Guard allows me to express myself in a different way, it allows me to escape reality for a few hours and just let go of everything,” Olympic’s Lexie said. “I’m completely happy and very passionate about it – I give it my all.”

Ruebens: 704-358-5294; On Twitter: @YoungAchCLT
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