Written By: Emily Ward, Featured Performer from Sunlake HS
The 2021 Championships taking place in Daytona this weekend marks the end of the FFCC’s iconic thirty-fifth season. Teams across the state of Florida have given their all in the last few months to have a chance to perform at the Ocean Center. With the conclusion of the season, I reached out to members of Newsome High School’s A-class colorguard, South Florida’s open-class winterguard, Sunlake High School’s open and AA-class colorguards, Osceola Fundamental High School’s B-class colorguard, and Creekside High School’s AA-class colorguard to discuss with them what their teams have been doing to prepare for championships, how they are feeling going into this thrilling weekend, and what being able to compete this season has meant to each of them.
Kylah Stubee, a proud member of South Florida’s Winterguard, said that “In preparation for the 2021 FFCC Championships, my team has been focusing on our physical and mental health. The week leading up to champs, we made sure to keep ourselves isolated to minimize COVID-19 exposure risks, take care of any injuries, take time for self care, and everyone did a full run outside of rehearsal.” One of Kylah’s teammates, Aubree Fillyaw, added that the team has also been “doing a lot of video assignments and cardio on our own! [And] when we are at rehearsal, we all take initiative and start running things before the staff gets back from breaks.”
A fellow Featured Performer, the talented Hailey Gauger from Creekside High School, talked about how her team is preparing by cleaning their show in sections. “We take [our show] in chunks and clean by doing tosses and our dance/flag features repetitively!” Like Creekside’s guard, my team, the Sunlake High School varsity colorguard, has also been working on building up our consistency at rehearsals and on our own at home. In a discussion with another one of the seniors from my team, Evia Fleming, spoke about how “Our team has been taking a whole lot of consistency chunks. We always support each other during our reps, counting and encouraging one another—even reminding each other to breathe! In this final week leading up to champs, we’ve also been identifying areas we can work on individually to make our last run the best it can be. We usually do mandatory video assignments, but this week we’ve just been posting them for each other, purely for the purpose of pushing through until the end.”
Championships is drawing closer with each passing day, and excitement is consuming performers. A featured weapon from Newsome High School varsity and a dedicated 2021 Featured Performer for the FFCC, Nick Edwards told me about how eager he is to perform on Sunday afternoon with his team. “I’m so excited! This season has been such a good one for us and I’m excited to get to experience my first championships with my team!” Nick isn’t the only Featured Performer brimming with enthusiasm to compete at the season thirty-five championships; Danielle Morgan from Osceola Fundamental High School is in the same boat. “I am very excited to compete with my team!” she told me enthusiastically. “I am so happy to be able to experience it with them one more time.” Kylah Stubee elaborated on both Featured Performers’ feelings by saying how she is so “excited to get to compete with my team this weekend!
Every in-person show we had this season was special because it wasn’t guaranteed, making it to champs is a goal we worked and hoped for, but weren’t expecting.” Evia Fleming spoke about how this season, despite all the changes, hasn’t altered how she feels about this upcoming last performance. “Each final performance of the year, I always cry and it’s always about halfway through the show. I can’t show my joyful tears to my teammates as I perform this year (due to masks), but those tears are real and still going to be there. The flag feature hits and my emotions are all over the floor; I love my team so much.”
All seven performers that I had the pleasure of speaking to remarked on how impactful this season has been for them and their programs. One of my teammates from my time on Sunlake’s AA-guard last season and now a captain of that very team, Isabella Rodriguez, happily spoke about how rewarding this season has been for her, especially since, at the beginning of Sunlake’s fall season this year, she sustained an injury to her ankle that required her to sit out for a season. “Every time I compete with them, [Sunlake JV], it feels like a dream, because before premiere, it had been eleven months since I had gotten to perform at all, and to know I can once again grow with my team has been the best.” She furthered proclaiming that this spectacular season with Sunlake JV has made her “feel like [her] team can overcome anything!”
Like Isabella, Nick Edwards also saw this eventful season as a comeback for his program. “Last year our season got cut short, so this year has been our opportunity to get back out on the floor and have one of our most successful seasons, in spite of all of the setbacks.” A year full of being quarantined and contract-traced due to the pandemic has also added to how meaningful this season has been to performers.
Right before premiere this year, Danielle Morgan was one of the people that had to quarantine. She said how her “team has grown to see this [competition season] as such a privilege, as some of us have had to quarantine out of precaution. Personally, missing premiere to COVID-19 was absolutely heartbreaking and I felt discouraged at first, but it made me more excited and more passionate for the sport. I became more determined than ever and my hope was that I could share that feeling with my team.”
Outside of complications such as quarantines and injuries, Aubree Fillyaw and Hailey Gauger talked about how this season has felt like a second chance to them. Aubree said that “This season has been like a light in the dark. It’s a second chance to take in every moment and a reminder that nothing is ever promised. You never know what can be taken away from you until it’s too late, but that has definitely caused me to value every moment! Even when things are hard, my body hurts, and I’m exhausted. My team always has the reminder that we get to do this; it’s been a very motivating season!” Hailey added on by saying how “This season [has] felt a lot like part two to what we had last year, but in the best way possible. It was a game changer too, since it’s our first time in AA, so we all got to experience this new ranking together, and learn what it’s like to be a more experienced and mature guard!”
For Kylah Stubee and the South Florida Winterguard, “this season has meant always giving our best. Our director always says, ‘make this run as special as your first and as important as your last.’ We all know how lucky we are to have a season and how it could be over at any moment, like last year. This season has given a lot of us closure from last year by being able to finish out the season.” As for Evia Fleming, she told me how, for her, “This season has been a rollercoaster. From wondering if we were even going to have a season, to preparing for my last senior performance, I’ve consistently remembered to cherish every moment. Even the six-plus hour rehearsals were wonderful because I knew that I wanted to put every fiber of my being into performing for my team. The abrupt end to the previous season taught me to perform like it’s the last time I’ll ever spin and has me even more excited for my future in colorguard.”
Along with every program in this wonderful circuit, my team at Sunlake High School has immense gratitude to the FFCC for providing us with the opportunity to perform in-person once again. To every performer with the chance to showcase their love for the marching arts this weekend, the 2021 Featured Performers, along with the staff at the FFCC, wish you and your program the best of luck!
Seniors and those aging out after this season, take in every last moment with your team, and remember how lucky we all are to have gotten the opportunity to share our passion for colorguard, percussion, and winds, one final time. When you walk out into the arena at the Ocean Center this weekend, take a deep breath, look around at your teammates, and give your final performance everything that you’ve got. Congratulations on being a part of the most historic season the FFCC has ever seen!