By Diana Kuyper For Sun-Times Media March 6, 2014 7:46PM
“I live and breathe this team competition. I am obsessed with this,” said Coach Brie Cederna. “The kids laugh at me, but we have good results because of it.”
Winter Guard is the indoor version of color guard without a band, performing instead to recorded music on the gym floor. The 21-member Lakes team competed in Peoria March 2 against more than 100 teams from throughout the state in two categories, winning top scores in both and finishing with the overall Grand Championship title. This is the fourth year in a row that they have earned a state title but the first time they walked away with the grand championship.
The Lakes team from Lake Villa started five years ago after Cederna joined District 117 in as special education coordinator and color guard coach. She has been competing in both color and winter guard since she was 14 and choreographing routines since high school.
“It seemed like a natural for me to expand the program at Lakes to include winter guard,” said Cederna, who was captain of the color guard flag team at Purdue and started coaching high school teams in college.
Her coaching duties for both teams at Lakes is a year-round commitment she loves. “It is so creative for me. I love music and listen to the radio all the time, envisioning programs and choreography for the teams.”
Cederna inspires the team members that represent all four grade levels at the school. “
My daughter, Ashley, was their manager last year and even though she graduated, I still love watching the team,” said LCHS parent Vicki VanSlochteren. “Brie is an inspiration. She motivates her team to perform at their best and they love her and would do anything for her. It is just a great atmosphere to be part of.”
“Coach Cederna is such amazing coach and person,” confirmed Ashley VanSlochteren. “Everyone on the team looks up to her, because she took the team that didn’t really have anything and made it the team it is today,” crediting the coach with helping the team that requires special costumes and props with her own money in addition to supporting team fundraisers.
Cederna said every member of the team is outstanding, but senior captain Lauren Miller is the only member who has won five titles since she joined the team as a freshman. “She’s brilliant,” said the coach. “I hate to lose her after graduation, but she has limitless options open to her.”
Miller, who hopes to continue her color and winter guard activities after graduation, says when she joined the Lakes teams, she found a home and a family.
“It was my devoted teammates and coach that really pushed me to continue my participation. Every time I started to get discouraged, someone was there to encourage and help me.”
Julie Lemke has had two daughters, Megan and Melissa, on the team. “There is a level of dedication and commitment from the coach and team members you don’t see on many other guard teams and is central to their achieving their state titles. Their work ethic, strength and determination as a team is what sets them apart.”
To achieve their pinnacle of greatness, the team practices two to three times weekly. “The real success to this is that they all practice on their own,” said Cederna. “I teach them the routine, but the team members practice often on their own. They are motivated to be the best.”
Routines are based on a theme and require choreography and music with costumes, flags and other props. One of the two winning state routines was based on the theme of self esteem and included sabers in the production.
“Lyrical Flag was second division in which we competed. That is literal interpretation of music. The team had to act out the song lyrics of the piece “Say Something” and this category leans heavily on their dance skills,” said Cederna.
Because Lakes finished with top scores in both their competitions, they were awarded the grand championship.
Right now Cederna welcomes a six-weeks break before color guard tryouts. “But that doesn’t mean I will stop my obsession,” she laughed. “I am already listening to music and thinking about new routine concepts for the color guard season. There is nothing I enjoy more than coaching these teams.”
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