FORT MILL — Undeniable.
That was the “word of the week,” for Nation Ford High School Marching Band students and staff, said drum major Jonathan Drake. After a disappointing third place finish at Upper State on Oct. 19, the band pushed forward towards the State competition with that word in mind.
“We needed to have a show that was undeniable, to force the judges to give us the high numbers,” Drake said. “We had to work hard, to outwork everyone else if we wanted to win a state title.”
Undeniably, they succeeded. The Nation Ford High School Marching Band won the 4A State Championship Saturday night.
When the marching band stepped off the field, members knew they had performed the best show of the season, Drake said.
“We definitely had the feeling that we had no regrets, that no matter how it turned out we could be proud of what we laid down on the field,” Drake said.
But how the band’s performance would measure up against its competitors was impossible to tell, Director Martin Dickey said.
“You have to understand you’re in an activity that isn’t cut and dry. It’s very subjective,” Dickey said.
“What we do, you’re putting results in the hands of six people who may or may not like what you’re doing. So you have to be happy with yourself first. We can control ourselves, whether we have a good performance, whether we’re prepared. We can control those things. We can’t control another band, the judges, the weather. You just put your best foot forward.”
The students returned to the field for the awards ceremony. They stood at attention, not moving or smiling, as they heard the news that they had won the state championship.
Finally, they were allowed to break ranks and celebrate.
“It was all smiles from there,” Drake said.
The Fort Mill High School Marching Band competed in the Bands of America Super Regional Championship in Atlanta. The band competed in a preliminary competition on Saturday morning and met its goal of earning a spot in the Saturday night finals competition. The band placed third in Class 3A during the preliminary competition. Wando High School placed third in Class 4A, making Wando and Fort Mill the only South Carolina bands to earn a spot in the finals.
Fort Mill Director John Pruitt described the Super Regional last week as an “educational experience” for the students, offering them an opportunity to compete in “one of the most competitive super regionals in the nation.”
“There are very good bands in North and South Carolina, but there is another tier out there,” Pruitt said.
In the final competition, Fort Mill competed against two-time BOA national champion Broken Arrow High School, who finished first overall, and defending BOA Atlanta Regional Champion Tarpon Springs, who finished in second place. Fort Mill was one of only three bands from Class 3A to compete. Fort Mill placed 10th overall, with only 2.5 points separating seventh through 12th place.