The Ferndale winter guard team won the Michigan Color Guard Circuit 2023 Scholastic AA Championship April 1. It was the team’s  third title  since 2018.

The Ferndale winter guard team won the Michigan Color Guard Circuit 2023 Scholastic AA Championship April 1. It was the team’s third title since 2018.

Photo provided by the Ferndale winter guard

Ferndale Winter Guard wins 3rd state title since 2018

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 24, 2023


FERNDALE — For the third time since 2018, the Ferndale Winter Guard has taken home another state championship.

The winter guard, composed of 28 students from Ferndale Middle School and Ferndale High School, won the Michigan Color Guard Circuit 2023 Scholastic AA Championship on April 1. The winter guard previously won state titles in 2018 and 2019.

Winter guard, which is the winter version of the district’s color guard, features a group of performers who spin flags, rifles and sabers and dance to a soundtrack. Performances usually go on for several minutes for a panel of judges, and the winter guard competes against other winter guards at a similar level to them.

The team began working together in November and, following months of practice and rehearsals, started entering competitions in February. The show the team performed in the finals was called “Grow As We Go,” named after the song by Ben Platt.

Winter guard Director Jennifer Batsios said students who join generally do so when they’re in the eighth grade and they don’t know a lot about the program, but once they join, everyone gets a chance to grow as a team and family.

“The show is just about how we are stronger together and how we’ve kind of grown up together these last few years, especially this current senior class,” she said. “You know, going through COVID and just all these changes and getting to where they are now.”

One of the senior leaders of the team, Eva May, joined the winter guard in seventh grade. A captain for the last two years, what May likes most about the team is how it works together as a cohesive unit, as opposed to the color guard, where it’s still a team but the show is more spread out.

The 17-year-old May, of Ferndale, also was a member of the state championship in 2019. Reflecting on this year’s team, where she spun a rifle and a flag, she said this was one of the most rewarding years she’s had as a member of the winter guard.

“It’s always nice to win, but I was really, really proud of how the team grew, because this winter guard season we had a majority of new members,” she said. “So seeing everyone from the beginning of November, the end of November, when we started, to the beginning of April, it was really rewarding to see the future of this program grow in such an accelerated pace, because you just don’t get as much time in the winter as you do in the fall.”

The reality of performing in the state finals didn’t really hit the team until its second-to-last competition, as the realization set in that they only had a few more performances left before the championships, May said.

What drove the team even more this year was its result in last year’s finals, when the winter guard finished in eighth place.

“Still to this day, I’m extremely proud of how the team performed last year, but it was not what we were expecting,” May said.

After the team’s state finals performance, May said everyone’s energy was heightened to a point that it was indescribable and radiating among the squad.

May said winning a state championship was extremely rewarding for herself and the team.

“It felt like all our hard work, all the work we put in for this very moment, paid off exactly how we wanted it to,” she said. “I felt extremely proud of the team, for everyone else, giving it their all for that last run.”

Batsios said she’s immensely proud of how the team performed, as it’s no easy feat to excel in winter guard.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s just flags in the gym,’ and it is, but for these kids to come in with the limited amount of time they have — you know, we start after Thanksgiving — and for them to not only learn how to spin and to dance and to perform, but to be able to get it to a level of quality where they can be state champions and they can feel that pride and that confidence when they go on the floor, it’s nothing short of amazing to me,” she said.

“For them to have done it now for a third time for this group of kids — for some of them this is their second state championship, so our senior class, the last time we won was their eighth grade year — so for them to be able to have a second state championship is really, really special. But for the entire team, over half of our team was brand new this season and so I’m just super proud of all of them,” she continued.

As this was her last season, May said she wanted to go out with a bang. While the team was mostly composed of new members, seeing their growth after a few months was a proud “mom moment” for her.

“These kids are going to do so much for this program,” she said. “We didn’t have that many numbers last year. So seeing this, like, rapid increase in people on the team, it made me feel like this program has a really, really bright future with a lot of really talented kids.”

Ferndale Public Schools will be hosting a Parade of Champions for the winter guard and other championship-winning programs in the district at 5 p.m. Friday, April 28. The parade will start at Planavon Street and West Nine Mile Road and continue west to Pinecrest Drive and then south on Pinecrest to Ferndale High School.