The Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard celebrates their first place victory at the TIA Atlantic Coast Championships. photo credit: David Overholtzer

Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard Becomes Atlantic Coast Champions

Two weeks ago, the Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard became Atlantic Coast Champions at the Wildwood Convention Center after over five months of practice and competition.

The colorguard, led currently by Zachariah Jacobes, Franko Robinson Young, and Tori Bauver, has had its fair share of ups and downs in the past, but this season had been exceptionally special for the ensemble.  The guard was ranked in first place for the majority of the season, and had just been named Chapters 3 Champions. The guard was judged in four different categories – General Effect, Design, Movement, and Equipment – and received first place and a score of 91.94.

Before the journey to Wildwood, the colorguard put on one last show the day before they left in the auxiliary gym to prepare themselves for the weekend of performances ahead. Family and friends crowded the bleachers for a send-off show, and purchased candy grams for the ensemble to enjoy later. One final moment was spent to recognize the five seniors, Regan Fidler, Erin Cleaver, Michaela Ehm, Leah Hunsberger, and Bella Vitelli, who had worked their hardest to push the group forward for the past four years. At the end of the performance, which included two run-throughs of the show, members were able to greet their family and friends before packing up to leave the next day.

On Thursday, May 4th, the Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard boarded their school bus and began the two hour drive to Wildwood, New Jersey. Each person was buzzing with nerves and excitement, not knowing what lies ahead for them in the next three days.

“Last year, it felt like we were all grasping at straws and crossing our fingers to make it to the next round; this year it felt like we actually had a chance and that we controlled what we could accomplish.” says sophomore and second-year member Shannon Staiber.

The next morning, after a two hour rehearsal, the colorguard took the floor at the Wildwood Convention Center for their preliminary performance. After a wonderful first performance, the guard took first place with a 95 points even.

The semi-final performance took place in the Middle Township High School, just outside of Wildwood. The colorguard was the last to go on in their class, and each one of them were nervous for the results. After years of staff shake-ups and drama within the ensemble, the Perkiomen Valley colorguard had never made it past the semifinal round of competition. However, this season had been exceptional for the colorguard, and there was a glimmer of hope that they would be able to make it farther than they ever expected. Each member went out into the floor and gave it their all, hoping that their performance would be powerful enough to push the guard further than ever before. The performance moved the audiences, and shortly after removing the floor and props from the gymnasium, the colorguard was informed that they not only made it to the final round of competition, but that they made first place with a 95.75.

“When [one of our instructors,] Franko, announced our score and that we made finals, I wanted to explode in happiness. I realize I have only been a member of indoor guard for two seasons, but I was still so happy. The season prior to this one was difficult and stressful, so it was nice to make finals.” recalls sophomore and second-year member Hannah Morris.

After a night full of happy tears, as a result of both the entry into finals and a heartfelt gift exchange between members and staff, the colorguard got ready for a morning of brand new experiences and the making of Perkiomen Valley history.

The final round of competition took place back in the Wildwood Convention Center, and the members were thankful for a familiar place to perform in with the stakes so high. They were set to compete against fifteen other groups, including Abington High School, with whom they’ve been neck-in-neck with all season long. Without an initial practice, the guard arrived with enough time for a quick warm-up to get out any jitters before their final performance of the season. Loading up to go onto the floor, they were met with the support of the Q Performance Ensemble, a group that acted as both a friend and a mentor to the Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard since the beginning of the season. The guard let out one final cathartic scream before going onto the floor, as per tradition, and walked out into the gym, ears filled with the sounds of supportive applause from the audience. The performance had mixed reactions from the ensemble afterwards, but it was agreed that it was one of the most emotional performances that the guard has done.

After watching one more colorguard and helping them clear the floor, the Perkiomen Valley colorguard lined up for full retreat awards..

“My favorite moment from the trip was waiting in line to find out our placement in finals; everyone was holding and squeezing each other’s hands, and it was just really intense.” says Staiber.

As the awards were being announced, the guard all took each others hands and held their breath – a tense and emotional moment only broken up by applause and playing with the red clown noses given to each member as a joke gift from the parents and staff for coming this far. The scores became closer and closer together, and the announcer reached third place when everyone started to bubble over with anticipation.

Finally, after what felt like forever, over the microphone rang out the placement for the Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard: first place, with a score of 96.64 and the title of Atlantic Coast Champions.

The guard erupted into tears and hugs all around, even with the guards around them in congratulations. They gathered together and took a picture with the large banner that read out their title in large letters, and then ran back behind the divider in the gym to greet their parents and staff, and to receive their medals.

The day was ended with a long bus ride home, but not complete without an escort from six firetrucks from the Collegeville area, organized by the Perkiomen Valley band parents. The colorguard ran off of the bus into the arms of their family, who greeted them at the high school with balloons and handmade signs.

“Colorguard was something that I loved and was so glad to enjoy for all four of my high school years. Leaving Wildwood felt like it was being ripped out from under me, but I will never forget the friends I made from it or the confidence it gave me.” says senior and fourth-year member Leah Hunsberger.

As a member of the Perkiomen Valley Colorguard and as a junior who has seen the worst of the guard’s turmoil, I would like to thank each member of the colorguard for the best and most rewarding season that I have been a part of. Without the hard work from all of the members, we would have never made it this far. Thank you to all of our supporters, including parents, friends, and staff, who encouraged us to work hard and stay humble. We, the Perkiomen Valley Indoor Colorguard, are eternally grateful for the new beginning you have given us with your dedication to us and to the program.