Tossing and Turning Winter Guard Flags

Ella Aranjo (left) and Addy Symalla (center) toss up their flags at Dakota Ridge winter guard practice.

Cathy Amwoza

Ella Aranjo (left) and Addy Symalla (center) toss up their flags at Dakota Ridge winter guard practice.

Kassidy Spencer, Staff

Ella Aranjo walks onto the cold gym floor after the team warm-up — they gather in a tight circle and say a couple of words to get amped up for the competition. They walk to the mat while carrying their large props and get lined up.  The speaker comes on, and Dakota Ridge High School is announced as it echoes throughout the gym. 

Ella Aranjo, a winter guard member at Dakota Ridge High School, gives it her all at every practice because, like many other student-athletes, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the unknown is always waiting ahead of us. 

Before Covid-19 canceled everything last school year, the winter guard’s last competition ended up well. The team placed 4th in their division out of 10 teams. Unfortunately, the season got cut short, and the team was unable to continue competing.

Aranjo has been doing winter guard for a year now and claims she is relatively close to her teammates, except for the freshmen. Not being able to see them often is unfortunate, but she still gets to see them twice a week, and when they are together they make the most of their time.

Because of the current situation the world is in, Aranjo says it is hard to find a sense of normalcy. She realizes that not only for winter guard, but student-athletes in general, sports and activities are an important aspect in order to have fun and make new friends in high school.

“I think it’s important to keep winter guard during times like this because some people, like myself, are not able to see their friends as often because of the split in last names,” Aranjo said, “and because it is a way for people to make new friends and have fun in general.”

Ella Aranjo and her winter guard teammates may not get to see each other as much now; however, she and her teammates strive to get better each practice. They are willing to help each other out and make a team effort to stay positive.

Compared to the typical practices that winter guard had in previous seasons, a lot has changed. However, according to Aranjo, social distancing isn’t really that hard for them since they have to spread out anyway to do tricks and tosses.

“It has changed in a lot of ways.  For example, we take our temperatures before every practice and wear masks for the full practice,” Aranjo said.

A couple of Aranjo’s teammates say they enjoy working with her because she motivates them to be better. In a time like this, every team needs positivity and someone to motivate them to keep going.

“I feel like she keeps me motivated,” sophomore Lena Miller said. ”We are able to help each other through difficult tasks and routines in order to make us both better for the whole group.”

Aranjo’s teammate, Addy Symalla, agrees with Miller.  “She brings a determined energy and always keeps pushing even when things get hard for her, which helps keep the group going.”

COVID-19 has changed student activities and has even canceled some sports. Unfortunately for winter guard, they are stripped of the experience and fun of competitions.  But many of them look on the bright side of the situation and are grateful to see their teammates and friends.

As Aranjo said, “The best parts have been being able to learn new things and seeing my friends twice a week. The worst parts have been practicing a lot less and not being able to compete and perform as usual.” 

Dakota Ridge High School team huddles during a winter guard competition. (Cathy Amwoza)