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Spinning flags for fun: the Fire of the Carolinas colorguard marches on

During a football game, halftime is typically considered the time to stretch legs and buy a hot dog. Far from it — halftime exists to give the players a break and to entertain the audience, not drive them away. The primary visual component of the halftime show is the colorguard.

Part of the Fire of the Carolinas marching band, the colorguard this year has eight girls on flag and one majorette. Though the group has fewer members from previous years, they still make a big visual impact in Rhodes Stadium.

Those familiar with high school marching bands may wonder at the differences between high school and colorguard — and there is a difference. In high school, competitive colorguards may have coaches that only teach colorguard and are selective with who makes the cut. Not so in most colleges.

“It’s so much more about the crowd,” said senior co-captain Jordan McNeill. In high school, the objective of the colorguard at halftime is to practice for competitions, in college colorguard only perfoms at halftime. “It’s more about looking good,” McNeill said.

McNeill and fellow senior and co-captain Christine Tompkins must choreograph dance and flag routines to the marching band’s music. This year’s first theme is “Fire” in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Fire of the Carolinas. The music includes arrangements of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel, “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix and “Through the Fire and Flames” by DragonForce.

“We just listen to (the music) again and again and again and see which moves fit,” said Tompkins. They also have help from a former majorette who attends practices on evenings and weekends.

Of the eight girls doing flag work, only one is new to colorguard and there are no freshmen. McNeill and Tompkins don’t look at this as a bad thing, though they would like to see more people join the team.

“We know their starting skill level,” McNeill said, “So we know where to start.”

Both captains did not start out in colorguard originally. In high school, McNeill was a trumpet player and Tompkins marched piccolo. But, they decided to change things up in college by doing colorguard.

“It’s nice to go from knowing the music to being a part of the visual ensemble,” McNeill said.
Tompkins has not put down the music for good. As a music education major, she still spends a lot of her time in the Center for the Arts. Both are members of Tau Beta Sigma, the music sorority.

“(Marching band) is a good social and bonding time,” said McNeill.”You’ll meet the best friends you’ll ever have in band.”

Tompkins and McNeill also said that being in colorguard has nurtured them into being leaders. Neither expected to be named captain, because they didn’t have over four years of experience spinning flags.

At the first home football game on Sept. 11, don’t leave the stands during halftime. The colorguard will be on the field performing exclusively for the audience — so don’t walk away.



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