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Colorguard brings home the gold

| Thursday, April 20, 2006

When the Seneca Valley colorguard finally got the chance to participate this year on the competitive circuit, the squad came to win. And it did.

Earlier this month, it beat out 10 other high school squads at the 2006 Tri Rivers Winterguard Ensemble Association Championship competition at Norwin High School in North Huntingdon. The Raiders brought home the gold medal.

Seneca Valley's 20-member colorguard includes students who work with batons and pompoms and generally perform as part of the high school band. The squad performs various dance routines and synchronized formations to provide entertainment and promote team spirit during football games.

To earn a berth in the championship competition, 10 members of the squad competed in five events and took first place in four.

Colorguard captain Lauren Duda, 17, attributes the squad's success to determination, hard work and the desire to perform competitively.

"When we finally got the opportunity, it was something we wanted to take advantage of," said Duda, a senior from Seven Fields. "It provided us with the opportunity to compete at a higher level and allowed us to display our potential."

Until this year, the colorguard performed only as part of the school band at football games and during the annual spring band trips, where the squad earned superior ratings in auxiliary competitions.

Because this year's band trip in May to Virginia Beach doesn't offer an auxiliary colorguard competition, the squad decided it was time to compete on its own, said coach Jean Hoagland, of Cranberry.

"When we began practicing in November, I never dreamed we would be going to the championships," said Hoagland, who gives credit to the squad's choreographer Wendy Watson, of Butler. "She is wonderful; she worked hard with the girls and really made them want it."

Performing competitively in front of judges is a little bit more complex than entertaining the crowd during football games, Hoagland said.

"On the field, we don't do as much dancing or rhythmic movement," said colorguard captain Andi Wisniewski, 15, of Callery. "In competition, we're judged on the way our feet are placed and more on the actual performance. At the games, we're more part of the supporting team."

Wisniewski, a sophomore, said she didn't expect the squad to win because it was the first year its members were competing. "It happened because we put everything into it; it became our life," she said.

Hoagland said she couldn't be prouder.

"The squad worked hard, set their goal and achieved it," she said. "They set the pace for future colorguard squads to perform competitively."

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