They've marched on asphalt in the sweltering summer heat. They have also braved the blustery winter cold on Friday nights after football games. They have played in front of thousands, as well as for a handful of parents and boosters.
The Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band has also now medaled in the UIL 5A state marching contest.
Waxahachie finished third with its "Serpentine" performance, earning the program's first-ever top-3 finish in the state championships, in San Antonio on Nov. 8. A total of 254 bands competed in either the area, regional or state contests.
Longtime Waxahachie High School band director, Richard Armstrong, could hardly contain his excitement and pride after returning home with the bronze medal.
“Our goal this year was to be in medal contention. We’ve never discussed that until this year. We have been intentionally competing with the best schools in the state," he said. "We are going head to head with them, basically to throw our hat in the mix to get beat up a little bit to learn what we have to do to be at that level."
Armstrong also noted the bronze medal is more significant than just represent the 211 WHS students that marched in the 2017 state finals, as it is for all WHS students who have ever made the commitment to play with the marching band.
“When you look at the wall of trophies over there, that’s built on other people’s successes. Our kids get benefits of doubt because of who we are. But we have built a reputation,” Armstrong said.
For the past 16 years, Armstrong has built a program based on work ethic. The team has gone to state every two years outside of 2007 and always placed between 11th and sixth.
“It’s a year-round prep. To have the kind of program that we want, you don’t just show up at the last minute," he explained. "You’re constantly building individual players. You’re constantly building talent.”
Armstrong said he’s already started planning next year’s performance.
Senior, Becky Garcia, will remember that performance as the last one with that band.
Garcia is a drum major and is the first chair with the flute. She has also performed with the Wind Ensemble since her freshmen year. Starting, she was “thrown into the deep end” and worked extra hard to not be the weak link.
“Mr. Armstrong is always talking about making sure ‘you’re not the weak link.’ And I ended up becoming one of the examples,” Garcia said.
All she could think about during her last performance was that it had to be her best. She said, “I was blank. I focused on staying in line and keeping time. I would glance back at the band every now and then, but I didn’t really hear anything,”
And then, “I came off the field smiling.”
As the scores were announced, Garcia thought “We actually have a shot” after a team that was originally ranked higher dropped to seventh. When the sixth team was announced, she thought, “we’ve already made history because they’ve never been ranked as high."
During Armstrong’s speech to the band, he mentioned how this was the last time for the students to perform together.
Garcia said, “And I started tearing up like I am right now. It’s really emotional. I’ve done so much with this band. I’m going to miss it.”
“I’m so glad that was the feeling that we felt because it just made the past seven years of my life just that much more important, incredible.”
“Well within the next few years, we are expected to go 6A, so I think they’re just going to shoot to be at the top of the 6A like they did with the top of the 5A," Armstrong said. "And that might be harder but we are becoming a contender this year, and I’m excited to see where this gets to go.”