Westlake High School’s varsity Winter Guard team has bested school records by winning a bronze medal in the 2022 Color Guard International Competition in Dayton, Ohio, April 7-9. This was the highest award a Westlake Winter Guard team has ever won.
The achievement was preceded by a first-place finish in the Texas Color Guard Circuit State Championship in March.
Varsity, JV and middle school teams known as Cadets perform as the Color Guard with Westlake’s marching band in the fall and are also known as the Elite Visual Ensemble. When football season is over, they train for Winter Guard.
These programs are known as “The Sport of the Arts” because artistry is combined with athleticism and expressed with flags, rifles and sabers, all set to music.
Fifteen seniors on Westlake’s Varsity team competed against 94 of the top teams throughout the country in the “Scholastic A” class at the world championships. Their dream to compete in the pinnacle of their sport was finally realized for the first time in three years because of COVID lockdowns.
“Because the kids couldn’t go before,” said team director Kaysey Thompson, “they have not seen much of the top groups in the whole world, so I am excited students finally got to compete and see Olympic level performers at the 45th world championship. “
Some schools consider this an extracurricular activity, but at Westlake students get PE or fine arts class credit for being part of the team.
“They rehearse two hours before school each day,” Thompson said. “Some also rehearse after school and take private lessons.”
Thompson has a lot of experience in the sport because her parents spent their life coaching it. She began performing at the age of 5 and taught high school students when she was in junior high school. “My parents taught me everything I know,” she said. That led her to become a Disney choreographer and coach in several other school districts.
Her team’s winning routine was performed to a Willie Nelson and Alanis Morissette duet called “The Life I Love.”
Nelson is portrayed by the team’s only male, graduating senior Ethan Klingelberger. He’s been a part of the group since his freshman year after becoming inspired by his friend’s rifle spinning performance with the team. The athletic senior said it looked fun to spin flags with precision and dance with a demilitarized rifle. “I’ve loved every second of this and find it exciting,” he said.
Team captain Lexi Latto was elected by her classmates. Her job di lei is to know every detail of the choreography to help prepare teammates to exceed expectations.
The senior said a highlight of going to the world competition was “watching all these other insanely talented teams perform.
“It was one of the best and most surreal experiences of my life so far,” she said. “Being on that floor was a goal of mine for a very long time.”
Latto said two of her favorite memories are getting to know everyone on the team and “catching a glimpse of a teammate in a performance and sharing a smile.”