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Members of the Winter Guard performing at their Friends and Family Show. Photo by Joseph Butz.

Winter Guard Members Comment on their “Abandoned” Season

The NHS Winter Guard has had a season never to be forgotten, complete with trials, tribulations, and quite the haunting show. 


This year’s program, performed at competitions every Saturday, is titled, “Abandoned.” The show features a cast of a group of dolls and a singular human. The program will be performed for the last time at championships on Sunday, April 23. 


From the end of November up until now, their practice schedule has taken up their Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The guard has been hard at work all season for this show – and it hasn’t been easy. “One of our coaches, Kim, had an accident and broke her foot,” said Rachelle Bonilla, a freshman who has now been in the Guard for three years. “She had to have surgery and was unable to be with us for a long time. Without her guidance, it was very hard to finish the show since we only had about half of our show done when this accident happened.”


“This season had a rough start,” said Kristen Reilly, a current senior and captain who has been in the Guard since their sophomore year. “Our first two competitions, we didn’t place very well;  we got last or second-to-last place. But at our mid-season competitions, we got first place, and we’ve been getting first place ever since.”


The quick turnaround for the Winter Guard came with its new set of challenges. “We got bumped into a higher division this season,” said Bonilla. The new division would mean new standards for getting high performance scores. “Throughout that week all of us were frustrated, wondering, ‘How did that make sense if we were losing all the time?’ But somehow we made it through, getting first place for all of our comps so far. We stayed strong throughout all of our ups and downs.”


“Guard most definitely is quite a journey,” said Emily Kean, a freshman who started the Winter Guard just this year. “Some days are more difficult than others, but it has been really enjoyable. We all as a team have become closer, and we push towards our goals in this show as performers.”


And the team’s efforts are plain to see in the new show. With the title of “Abandoned,” the show opens with the haunting first lines of “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda. Members of the guard perform dance and tosses as the music swells, some of them switching between up to three different heavy props.


The show is about this girl who as a child used to love playing with her doll,” said Bonilla. “But as she grows older, she becomes distant from that doll and doesn't pay attention to her anymore. This doll becomes angry that she was abandoned and comes to life to take revenge on the person who left her.”


The opening duet of the show is performed by sisters Sydney and Sophia Chang, who play the human girl and the doll respectively. “I love my solo part,” Sydney said. “It gives me the opportunity to be creative by embodying a character and acting it out as I see fit, and I can demonstrate my growth over the years as a performer.” 


“I absolutely love having my part in the show as the forgotten doll because it gives me a chance to prove my worth,” Sophia said. “When I first found out about having the duet with my sister, I flipped out. I was shocked that I was chosen to be the character, but it also made me feel so lucky, happy, and excited.”


The Winter Guard completed their Friends and Family Show performance on March 30th, marking an approaching end to the season. The guard seems to agree that the memories they’ve made there are not something to be “abandoned.”


“Guard is just everything to me,” said Bonilla. “Before guard, I did absolutely nothing. As much as I dread some practices, it really is my safe space and just somewhere where all my worries can go away. Guard is a family. We help one another and love one another. Our coaches Kim, Jo, and Sydney are all like moms to me. Even through tough times in guard, I always come back to it because it feels like home.”


“Guard means family to me,” said Kean. “I don’t know what life would be without guard.”


But with this closing season comes excitement and hope for the future. With most of the Guard’s members planning to stay, ideas for next year’s show are forming, even if the dolls have to be put away. And the Winter Guard is ready to toss their way to triumph again.


“Guard is always open to taking in a new family member in the 7th to 12th grades,” said Sydney Chang. “Many of our members had never heard of this activity before high school, and now they love it. It’s highly competitive and can be stressful a lot of the time, but it’s also very rewarding. It’s never too late to join, and we encourage everyone to give it a try!”