East Lincoln color guard excels at world championships

Junior Bella Mabe performs the opening flag solo during East Lincoln’s performance at the WGI World Championships in Dayton, Ohio. /Courtesy Tracey Bentley

DENVER – Just a year after earning a step up in classification, the East Lincoln High School Cheval Color Guard placed seventh nationally at the 2022 Winter Guard International World Championships in Dayton, Ohio.

“Currently there are only three guards in the state of North Carolina that qualify to compete in Scholastic Open class (Marvin Ridge and Cleveland) and all three of us made the finals this year,” Cheval Color Guard director Rachel Frye said. “Last year the season was held virtually and we were promoted after they watched our video submission.” 

East Lincoln was ranked ninth nationally in the Scholastic A class and had just won the Atlanta regional when COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season. During a tumultuous time when some programs were forced to disband, the Cheval guard continued to progress, and Frye credits the only three remaining members of the 2019 ensemble that competed at the world championships. 

“Many guards were not able to return to the world championships because they fell apart over COVID with it being so hard to motivate students to dedicate themselves to something that requires tremendous focus and physical effort,” Frye said. “It’s a testament to our three who had been there before because they were able to motivate their peers and explain that, while it’s going to be hard work, everything is going to be worth it.”

Despite facing a higher level of competition, the leadership of Sarah Frye, one of just two seniors on the guard, and juniors Lori Woodrum and Laura Zacharauskas – who competed as eighth graders in 2019 – helped guide East Lincoln to its highest finish among six trips to the world championships. 

The East Lincoln High School Cheval Color Guard placed seventh nationally with its “Ring of Eternity” performance at the WGI World Championships. /Courtesy Tracey Bentley

“It felt absolutely phenomenal,” Woodrum said of returning to the world championships. “Especially because guard is a performing art, so being able to show the work we put in by performing in front of an audience is a very big deal and motivates us to keep going.”

Zacharauskas echoed those sentiments, noting the bigger crowd that came with competing in a higher classification.

“The COVID season was honestly a struggle to find motivation,” she said. “Hearing the crowd gets you going so being in that higher class with a bigger crowd and more support, competing in that big arena was amazing.”

Titled “Ring of Eternity,” the Cheval guard worked countless hours starting in the Fall to perfect its program, culminating with the ultimate show April 9 at world championships. The show was created and produced entirely in-house, with primary instructor Trent Williams, assistant instructor Mackenzie Badger and Adam Sage, a choreographer and designer, playing pivotal roles. 

Junior Lori Woodrum performs a calypso jump during East Lincoln’s “Ring of Eternity” performance. /Courtesy Tracey Bentley

“When the programming process began this season, I started with a gorgeous soundtrack by Kerenza Peacock entitled ‘Rainbow,’” Williams said. “After listening countless times, the ideas of tranquility, peace, and spiritual journeys began to resonate in my mind. These ideas lead me to the mandala. When watching the show, you will notice that the mandala is heavily referenced as a visual aid through our many tarp pieces and flag designs. We continue to reveal multiple layers of the mandala throughout the show, which provided an incredibly rich coloration against the black floors of our performance venues, creating a dynamic performance stage.”

East Lincoln’s world championship performance is available in its entirety on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJwH7rOmOio.

“There have been a number of different interpretations provided for the show,” Frye said. “Some judges see butterflies and others see fairies, but we have very much left it open-ended so that the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. The goal was just to create a moment of peace.”

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