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Bands strike right notes for second place finale

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By Bryan Marshall

Grant County and Williamstown marching bands ended their seasons on a high note, although a little short of a state championship.

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For the second consecutive year, both local bands finished as first runner-up in their respective classes at the Kentucky Music Educators Association state marching band finals on Oct. 29 at Western Kentucky University.

It was the third year in a row that Grant County took home the KMEA Class AAAA runner-up plaque, making it the 10th plaque the school has earned in its history.

After winning three straight state titles, it was the second consecutive year that the WHS Band of Spirit placed second in the finals.

“The students had their best performance of the year on finals night,” said first-year WHS Band of Spirit director Mike Pickrell. “I think everyone was so happy with their success and their performance that it didn’t matter if we were going to be fourth or what place we got. We were all pleased that they could finally put it all together and have such an outstanding performance that they can forever be proud of and honored to say they were a part of. That superseded any award that could have been given.”

GCHS was only outscored by Madison North Hopkins High School, the band that narrowly defeated the Braves last year, in the Class AAAA finals.

Grant County scored an 87.4 from the judges, less than two points away from first place, but nearly three points ahead of the next closest band, John Hardin High School.

GCHS also finished second to Madisonville North Hopkins earlier in the day during the semi-finals at Barren County High School.

“We all were very confident and excited with how well we did,” said GCHS senior Whitney Johnson. “When we got announced for second, I feel all of us were a little disappointed because we worked so hard and we wanted it so badly. But, we’re pleased with our result. We’re just happy to make it in to finals. I’m really proud of the whole program. Mr. and Mrs. (Dave) Owens have built it up to something of pure excellence. I’m truly going to miss it.”

Although it was sad to perform as a Brave for the last time, GCHS senior Clayton Tipton said he will have lots of great memories.

“I had a good last year to be in the band,” he said. “I was very happy with it. I thought we had a good chance. I felt we had a really strong performance. I definitely thought we could get first, but I wasn’t disappointed, especially with the year we had. We had fun and that’s what it’s all about.”

The WHS Band of Spirit closed the gap against Beechwood High School slightly from the semi-finals’ performance at Warren Central High School to the finals, but not enough to earn the state championship.

WHS’s 88.75 score from the judges was two points behind Beechwood, who squeaked out a victory against Williamstown in last year’s finals by less than a point.

“After prelims I knew we didn’t do as well as we could have,” said Colton Simpson, a senior. “But going into finals, we just wanted a good show, to have fun and show everyone what we could do.

Simpson said he was hoping to win, but wasn’t shocked when the band received second place.

“We had one of the best shows ever and I couldn’t ask for better. I was satisfied with what we did. It really doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you have fun and we did.”

Pickrell, who replaced eight-time state champion Bob Gregg at Williamstown, said having to start the process of designing and teaching a show later than anticipated was a challenge.

“Even in the season as the kids were learning, we were still trying to iron out details for the concept and how we were going to fulfill it and how to put together the best package for the students,” he said. “A lot of that was very organic because we were having to do it as we were teaching it, which you never want to have to put yourself in that position. That was a daunting task, but I think it was rewarding in a lot of ways to see it come together.”

Ultimately, Pickrell said the season was a success and the band is excited to prepare next year to reach the goal of becoming recognized as a quality Class A band in the state and nationally.

“We definitely had some very high moments and some very low moments,” he said. “There were some rough patches along the way. It was a true rollercoaster. For us to go through the season we had where people we’re going at one point, ‘I don’t think they’re going to make it,’ to the point where we’re giving everyone their best shot and a run for their money, we were able to continue the success of the program. We have been recognized for our hard work and diligence.”

Connor Kinman, also a senior, credits Pickrell with hard work in getting back to state.

“He’s an amazing director and the band performed at the highest level that we could,” he said.

(Editor’s note: Several phone calls to Dave Owens were not answered and a voice mail message was not returned by press time.)