PaliHi’s Color Guard Wows Judges

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

PaliHi’s color guard triumphed all spring—winning every competition in its division, including the state championships at Knott’s Berry Farm.

“It was the first undefeated season in the program’s history,” said Samantha Dobson, who began coaching the team with Jack Trieger two years ago.

To win, the seven team members, sophomore Brigita Gedgaudaite ̇, junior Sarah Orozco, sophomore Madeline Brown, junior Elizabeth Carias, junior co-captain Libny Benitez, junior Itzel Chimil and sophomore Ella Hedvat, dramatically executed a visual dance to “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

PaliHi's Color Guard just after their state championship performance. (From left to right) Brigita Gedgaudaitė, Sarah Orozco, Madeline Brown, Itzel Chimil, Elizabeth Carias, Ella Hedvat, and Libny Benitez.
PaliHi’s Color Guard just after their state championship performance. (From left to right) Brigita Gedgaudaitė, Sarah Orozco, Madeline Brown, Itzel Chimil, Elizabeth Carias, Ella Hedvat, and Libny Benitez.

With movement, flags, and drama, the performance told the story of someone who learned that she didn’t need relationships to find herself and be happy; she could do that all on her own. Each team member then found ways to create a character that would tell that story.

“I think what the judges liked about it was that it was different,” said Dobson, who noted that most other groups picked an upbeat pop song. “We got lots of compliments on the theatrics behind what we do.”

Each of the seven teens wore black dresses and Audrey Hepburn hairstyles for the performance. Palisadian and co-captain Brown had a unique flag solo composed by Trieger, and she also enjoyed the theatricality of the performance.

“We created a story out of our facial expressions and choreography,” Brown said. “We tried to perform as large as we could to be dramatic.”

All season, the teens had both a strong camaraderie and appreciation for each other’s contributions.

“We work very well with each other,” Brown said. “We’re all very close to each other.”

Co-captain Benitez agreed, “I like that I’m not doing it alone, that I’m doing it with a group I feel comfortable with.”

Both girls also noted that the coaching of both Dobson and Trieger were special to them. “They’re very inspirational people,” Brown said.

Benitez added, “They’re funny, very nice, helpful, very supportive. They’re just there for us. I wouldn’t ask for anyone else because they’re the best.”

Both coaches also found inspiration during their own time in high school color guard. Trieger, 24, joined his high school team after his sister talked him into it.

“I loved it and stuck with it,” said Trieger, who now coaches for three other schools in Rosemead, Thousand Oaks and Orange County.

Dobson also had a family member who began her interest in color guard. In Dodson’s case, her mother had performed in high school and still had some of the flags at home where she grew up in the tiny town of Pekin, Indiana.

Dobson enjoyed the activity so much that after her first year of college, she applied to join a professional color guard, which then won the world championships twice during her five years competing with them. That success propelled her to a coaching job with one of the top 25 high school color guards nationwide in Florida, but Palisades High drew her away the following year.

“To take a program and start over and build it up caught my interest,” Dobson said. She also coaches Redondo Union, a team in a different division, which also won its division at the state championships. In addition, she provides dance instruction to various marching bands and also coaches a professional color guard that is touring this summer.

The spring Pali color guard is more intimate than the fall season, which includes performing outdoors with the marching band at football games. In the spring, the performers use the same flags, sabres and rifles, but are called winter guard and focus on one song throughout the season.

“We get to be by ourselves and show off our uniqueness away from the marching band,” Trieger said.

That uniqueness includes the visual aspect, the story and the athleticism of the dancing and movement, all of which were mentioned repeatedly by both the coaches and students in describing what drew them to the endeavor.

In particular, audiences rarely understand how athletic both color guard and marching band are, Dobson said. In color guard, “there is so much running, jumping, dancing, and hand-eye coordination—the artistry and all of the things you would use in a typical sport are all wrapped up into one. The discipline behind it is the same as a football team.”

Note: A correction has been made to a misspelled name. Palisades News apologizes for the error. 

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