Winter guard to compete

Winter guard to compete

The Million Dollar Band Color Guard, Alta Marea, are currently preparing for their competitive winter season, known as winter guard. Photo Courtesy of Alta Marea.

When they’re not spinning their flags and dancing across Bryant-Denny’s field on football Saturdays, the women of the Million Dollar Band Color Guard are preparing for their competitive winter season, known as winter guard. Alta Marea, which means “high tide” in Italian, is The University of Alabama’s winter guard and was formed in 2006.

Katie Estep, a senior majoring in advertising and president of Alta Marea, first saw the group when she was at a high school competition in Georgia. Estep said seeing the girls perform and seeing how much fun they had was a big part of her decision choosing which college to attend.

“When it came down to selecting what college I wanted to attend, I was conflicted between The University of Georgia and The University of Alabama,” she said. “I auditioned and made the Million Dollar Band Color Guard in 2011, and then that winter I was selected to be a part of the Alta Marea Winter Guard.”

Alta Marea differs from the color guard because they do not perform with the Million Dollar Band during the winter season. They perform indoors with the same equipment as is used during the fall season but with more intricate choreography that adheres to a theme. Last season’s show was “Hot Legs,” in which Alta Marea showcased a Latin routine involving fast spinning and dancing.

“One of the hardest parts of competing with Alta Marea is the rigorous schedule,” Estep said. “We practice twice a week for several hours each day starting in November of the fall semester. Beginning in January, we travel to a competition every weekend. On the few weekends that we do not have a competition, we will practice instead.”

Alta Marea competes in smaller competitions within Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. This year they will travel to Atlanta, Georgia and Pensacola, Florida. Their season will end in Dayton, Ohio, at the Winter Guard International World Championships, where they will compete in the Independent Open class against guards from across the country. There are three rounds of world championships: preliminaries, semi-finals and finals.

Kimberly Zlatunich, a sophomore majoring in advertising, joined Alta Marea in their 2014 season. Zlatunich did winter guard and color guard throughout high school and said she joined the team because of their competitiveness.

“My favorite part of competing would be the atmosphere in the gym after a good performance,” she said. “I loved when we performed at the WGI finals in April.”

Zlatunich and Estep said as hard as it is to manage their schedules with Alta Marea, it has also pushed them to stay on top of their grades.

Estep said the best part of being on the team is the lifelong friends and memories she has made, and the friends she has made within Alta Marea will mean much more to her in the future than any medals or trophies they have won over the years.

“Alta Marea has a great bond,” Zlatunich said. “We are very much a family and do hang out outside of practice and events. That has got to be the best part about being on the team – just getting to be a part of a family.”

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