Tori Heflin was the lone senior this year on the newly reformed winter guard, a seasonal offshoot of the color guard, at North Hall High School this year.
That means she was a leader of 10 other students who will help carry the winter guard to greater heights next year after reestablishing the tradition.
“I feel a lot like an older sister or a mom,” Heflin said. “It’s been more fun than I expected it would be.”
Stories of seniors from each Gainesville and Hall school are collected in this class of 2019 section.
Sheri Kinney, an instructor at North Hall High who leads color and winter guards, explained the key differences between the two.
In “marching season” in the fall, the 22-member color guard participates with the school band, for example, at football games and other showcases, twisting and flipping mock rifles and flags.
The winter guard, on the other hand, in addition to being a smaller group, trains and performs indoors from late fall to early spring.
“It’s a big, huge family,” said Heflin, who plans to study psychology at University of North Georgia after graduation.
It has more of a performative aspect to it, with seven-minute routines designed for scoring-style competition against other school teams.
In addition to the rifles and flags, the winter guard add sabers to their shows and dispense with the traditional formation of group lines and shapes during events with the band.
Winter guard had existed previously at the school, but only in sporadic years, and hadn’t formed for at least five years or more.
It also had typically performed with a drum line, but this year’s group went solo.
Kinney said the intention is to join a Southeastern regional competitive group next year, which will give the winter guard the opportunity to grow its ranks and compete against stiffer competition.
“That was kind of our goal this year,” she added. “Get our feet wet.”
Heflin said the long training hours — up to four hours a day, three days a week at times — prepared the novice winter guard for excellence in the circus themed competitive routine they designed.
The routine mimicked “The Greatest Showman,” a 2017 American musical drama, with clowns, tight-rope walkers, ringmasters and more.
“We were trying to put a story together for the people we were performing for,” Heflin said.
And the show received a great response, not just at competition, but also from the entire student body. Heflin recalls a kind of ra-ra-ra applause rather than a formal clap.
The same was true when the winter guard performed at local middle and elementary schools, perhaps laying the foundation to instill interest in a younger crop of students.
Kinney, who participated in color and winter guards while she attended high school, said this year’s winter guard at North Hall High has developed remarkably quickly, “more than (during) marching season.”