St. Clair High School Winter Guard performed its way to top spots at a January competition.

The team traveled to Mascoutah, Ill., for a competition where it placed seventh out of a total of 35 teams and fourth in its category during the weekend of Jan. 27, according to Coach Tammy Wall.

“They were happy with getting fourth, but they’re striving to place higher at the next competitions,” Wall said.

She added that the team is happy with the direction that it is going in and hopes to place first at upcoming competitions. The team will participate in two competitions in March and a regional championship the first weekend in April.

The winter guard season started in December with a three day camp. During that time, show designer and choreographer Danielle Welch taught the St. Clair team their routine. Welch is a retired coach from Washington.

“She taught (the team) our show in one weekend. It’s a lot of intense practices,” Wall said.

Practices are three nights a week for three hours including some weekends. Team members who were new to winter guard have “worked hard and they’ve come a long way,” Wall said.

Only a couple of team members have dance experience, according to Wall.

“To try to teach nondancers some of these dance moves, it’s been very hard, but they’ve all pushed through,” Wall said.

This is Wall’s first season as the team’s coach. She said she is still learning the ropes, but brings her high school flagging experience to the table.

“I’ve had a lot of fun,” Wall said on her first season as the coach.

By day, Wall is a kindergarten teacher at St. Clair Elementary.

“Some of these kids, I actually had them in kindergarten, so it’s like I’m reconnecting with some of my former students too,” she said.

“They’re a good group. They’re definitely putting in the time.”

About Winter Guard

Winter Guard is a combination of dance and the twirling of flags and rifles across the floor, according to Wall. Seven team members spin rifles in addition to flags and eight members only spin flags.

“In our show, we’re not typically standing in one spot too long ... So, it’s a lot of moving around the floor,” she added.

Winter guard is different from color guard in which winter guard provides its own music, and color guard uses the accompaniment of the school’s marching band.

“I’m just really enjoying watching these kids grow. I’m proud that I am their coach. I have a great group for my first year,” Wall said.

“They’re all just as patient with me as I am with them,” she said with a laugh.

Team Comments

Junior Shae Crays said she loves being on the winter guard team the past three years.

Winter guard is “just like a good bonding experience. Some of my best friends have been made on this team,” Crays said.

“We all help each other and make sure everyone feels good after a performance.”

Crays added that it is a good feeling when she masters difficult steps in a routine.

Placing fourth in their category at the last competition was a “good accomplishment.”

“It feels really good because it is a high place and we worked really hard,” she said.

Crays noted an instance when she dropped her equipment during the last competition.

“Everyone was really supportive and they just let me know that the drop didn’t matter,” she said.

“The love everyone gives is great.”

Her hopes are for the team to place first at the upcoming competitions.

Overall, winter guard is “an amazing experience and the people are so amazing,” Crays said.

Senior Taylor Newton, was recently named senior caption on the team. She performs with rifle and a flag.

She has been participating in winter guard since sophomore year and has been involved in color guard all four years. Newton said she fell in love with the sport after one year.

Her favorite part about winter guard is participating the competitions. She talked about a tradition involving Crays that occurs on the bus rides to and from competitions.

“She sings like different songs for everyone on the bus. It’s really fun. It makes us all laugh,” Newton said.

Her hopes for the rest of season are to place first or second in the upcoming competitions and to bond more with her teammates.

Sophomore Grace Simcox has been doing guard for four seasons with two being winter guard. This year, Simcox was named the sophomore captain.

The title is “ kind of a big deal because usually it’s given to seniors,” Simcox said.

“I love it and I love my team.”

Simcox said the team has gone through ups and downs, and this season is their “coming back year.”

“We have fun at times, and it’s a lot of hard work,”she said.

She added that she likes how her team works together to form the show.

“I love the intensity and how much (effort) everyone puts in,” Simcox said.

This is her second season performing with a flag and a rifle.

“Performing’s really, really fun because you get to see everyone’s faces and emotion come out,” Simcox said.

Her hope for the team is to place second at the upcoming championship in their category.