World champion color guards visited Wapakoneta gymnasiums this week for a few of their first practice sessions of the season.
Gearing up for the Winter Guard International performances in Dayton, Onyx, O2 and O3 color guard members have been focusing their time and efforts on improving their routines.
“It’s a bit grueling. It’s long. These are 12-hour days,” Director Michael Lentz said. “They start with 20 minutes of conditioning. They run basket ball suicides. They do crunches and push ups. We run a lot of laps — then, we work on the show.”
The color guards meet every weekend starting in October. Then, during the holidays, “Christmas camp” lasts for five days.
A few members of the community came to the Wapakoneta High School gymnasium to watch the color guards practice.
Beverly and Paul Strobel, of Wapakoneta, sat in the bleachers for a few hours to watch Onyx and O2 go over their routines Monday evening.
“Our girls were in flags in high school and our son marched in the Ohio State marching band, so we’ve always liked this kind of stuff,” Beverly said. “We’ve gone to shows before in Bowling Green and different places.”
Beverly said she was enjoying watching Onyx perform, and she was amazed at the group’s style and skill.
“I love it all,” Beverly said. “There’s so much going on that you don’t know what to watch.”
Paul said he was impressed with how quickly the color guard members were able to learn new parts of the routine.
“This director seems so picky, but I guess you have to be, to be world champions,” Paul said, noting how, after the director makes a change to the routine, the members pick up on it right away.
Lentz described Onyx’s routine as a “work in progress.”
“It’s in practice form,” Lentz said. “This is our practice tarp and practice clothes and practice flags.”
Lentz said the groups still have about three and a half months to perfect their routines, and will continue traveling to various areas that will lend them the use of their gymnasiums. Lentz said it can be difficult to find gymnasiums large enough to accommodate three color guards, specifically when they are required to practice for lengthy amounts of time.
“In addition to long weekends, they drive four or five hours to get here,” Lentz said, “and most of them are in college, have jobs, some are homeowners, they have families — they are seriously dedicated.”
Color guard members range from ages 18 to 34, and many come from Columbus, Knoxville, Tenn., Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, among other areas.
Lentz said most of Onyx members are one-year veterans, while some have been with the color guard for five years.
Lentz said he has high hopes this year for WGI championships.
“They got second place last year — they didn’t have a great run in finals — so they felt unfinished,” Lentz said, “not about not winning, but about their performance. This year, I think their drive is maybe a little stronger.”