Winter Guard twirls its way to finals at Nutter Center

Winter Guard twirls its way to finals at Nutter Center

Photo: Sam Barton

Fairmont’s Winter Guard rehearses at the Barnes Building for an upcoming competition.

By Daulton Cooper, Sports Editor

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the success of many of Fairmont’s winter sports teams this year, another hard-working but often overlooked group of Firebirds has been quietly making a name for itself, too.

Fairmont’s Winter Guard captured first place in its division at the MEPA (Mid East Performance Association) contest in Westerville, Ohio, on Sunday, March 24, 2013. The girls now move on to compete at the MEPA Championships on April 6-7 at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.

Winter Guard is known as the sport of the arts because it brings music to life through performance in a competitive format. Winter Guard is a spin-off of Color Guard with a few differences. Instead of having the Marching Band to set the rhythm or tone of the performances, the girls perform with pre-recorded music.

Fairmont’s Winter Guard program has been around since 1994. Winter Guard as a whole is now entering its 36th year, and the sport continues to evolve and grow. Many people don’t realize how popular Winter Guard is, but the regional-level competition last April drew more than 36,000 competitors.

Color Guard and Winter Guard have their similarities and most of the Color Guard girls participate in both, but not everyone gets into Winter Guard. “This year we have 21 girls compared to 36 in Color Guard because Winter Guard is more selective,” said sophomore Allison Leatherman.

Senior member Anna Leatherman describes Winter Guard as a combination of choreography and the spinning of different equipment. The wide variety of equipment they use can be very tricky to deal with as compared to Color Guard. “We spin everything from flags to sabers,” she said. “One of the most difficult parts is learning to spin the instruments the correct time because it is synchronized to music to create a show.”

The girls put in many hours of practice. During their season, they practice three days a week from 6 to 9:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The world of Winter Guard is a huge activity nationwide with competitions at the state and national levels. “The MEPA contest consists of preliminary and finals performances,” said Anna Leatherman, noting that the Fairmont squad placed 3rd and 4th in the past two years.

The girls hope to do even better at the MEPA Championships this year. “We hope to just do our best to bring home a trophy for Fairmont and to hopefully put Winter Guard on the map at Fairmont,” said Anna Leatherman.