Riverbank High School’s Winter Guard, led by band director Joey Aguilar, took second place at a competition held at Enochs High School on Saturday, Feb. 1 and also participated in a larger competition in Bakersfield on Saturday, Feb. 8. The RHS team lost to Central Valley High School out of Ceres by less than a point at the Enochs event and took seventh place in Bakersfield.
The group was awarded second place with a score of 50.75 against students from several different high schools in the area at the Enochs competition. Those participating included Modesto, Oakdale, Riverbank, Ceres, Turlock and Merced, all showing off their skills at the first Winter Guard competition of the season.
“It’s just really great that we get the Merced groups to come down here as well,” said Aguilar.
On Saturday, Feb. 8 the team competed at their first WGI (Winter Guard International) Regional since 2009 in Bakersfield and placed seventh with a score of 58.00.
Bakersfield is a larger competition than some of the others that they will compete in. There are schools from all over California that participated in the Bakersfield competition.
Second year captain, Vanessa Torres, expressed that she feels like things are running pretty smoothly this year and their hard work is really paying off.
“I am excited, I feel like we are going to go far this year and with the amount of work and effort and passion we all have, I feel that we will do good,” said Torres.
This is Aguilar’s first year at RHS and to assist with the Winter Guard team he has an instructional staff including a new head choreographer, Crystal Dickerson; Laura Lee, movement, dance, flag tech; Terri Simmons, movement, flag tech; and Manuel Tlscala, weapons tech.
Aguilar also directs the beginner band, advanced band, teaches a guitar class, a choir class, and color guard for the school.
“It was our first competition of the year,” said Aguilar. “We were one of the few groups there that almost had a complete show. I would say 85 percent of our show was finished.”
There are 11 students participating on this year’s winter guard team from all grades and they perform with flags, rifles, and sabers along with extensive choreography.
Daisy Leal is a sophomore at RHS and has been participating in winter guard for the past four years, starting when she was a student at Cardozo Middle School.
“I feel like we are all very dedicated in this guard and we all keep pushing ourselves and we are all in it to win it,” said Leal with a smile.
The team recently added rifles into their show and have been learning a new routine with the rifles and adapting to any other changes that have been made.
“Our progress has gone way up and they are at a little bit of a higher level thanks to our new choreographer,” said Aguilar. “She has really pushed them and with me backing her up and with my background in color guard I have been able to help push them along as well.
“So between myself and the choreographer and of course our other instructors we have just been pushing our girls to compete at a higher level.”
The RHS Winter Guard team is practicing two to three times a week so that they can complete their show and perfect their skills.
Any student can participate in the winter guard and according to Aguilar groups usually range from 10 to 20 students.
“This is my first year doing this so it has been a real nice experience to do,” said freshman Celeste Heredia. “Winning our first competition has been really exciting to me since it’s my first year.”
And though the number is a little small, Aguilar said the group doesn’t lack in the areas of drive and dedication.
“If we could have an even number like 12, I would have been really happy with that but I am happy with the 11 that we have,” said Aguilar.
Central Valley beat RHS by approximately 15 points at the championships last year. The team was happy with their score and happy with their place but when they realized that they lost by less than a point they all wanted to know what they needed to correct, according to Aguilar.
Currently, the team is at the Regional level and Aguilar and his staff is trying to rebuild the program. The winter guard team is competing at the WGI level.
“They would love to come out on top this year,” said Aguilar. “At one point Riverbank was a world class guard.”
The winter guard team has a very busy couple of months with competitions every weekend in the month of February and a few weekends in March.
Dickerson, the choreographer, teaches them what they need for the show and came up with the “hobo” concept they are utilizing this season for the show.
Senior Gabby Ortiz has been participating in the color guard for the past two years and believes this year everyone really wants to win and are ready to compete.
“In the end, it’s all about the drive and passion,” said Ortiz. “I feel like we have it 100 percent.
“I have to say the basketball team is a really big supporter of it (winter guard) and Coach (Jeff) Jennings has really helped us.”
Having the support, she added, is “honestly what keeps us going.”
The next show is on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Gregori High School in Modesto. Towards the end of March RHS Winter Guard will be having a spaghetti dinner fundraiser.
“They have been really trying their best to up their game,” said Aguilar.