Windermere, Horizon compete at WGI World Championships

Both Windermere High and Horizon High color guard teams qualified for and competed in the 2024 WGI Scholastic A World Championships.

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Both Horizon High’s and Windermere High’s color guards qualified and competed in the WGI Color Guard World Championships, held April 11 to 13 in Dayton, Ohio; the first in Horizon's history.

This accomplishment not only showed the growth of the two young programs but also was the perfect celebration for both teams after their 2023-24 seasons. For Horizon color guard director Kassidy Garcia, seeing her team shine on the biggest stage was an experience she will cherish for the rest of her life.

“It’s the coolest stinking experience ever,” Garcia said. “It was my first time as a color guard director going … and you can’t help but feel so much pride for this group when you see them go out there and put on some of the best performances of the season on the biggest stage.”

For Windermere sophomore Allison Pagan, soaking in all the world championships had to offer was an unforgettable experience.

“The whole trip was such a fun experience,” Pagan said. “But it was also an eye-opening moment for all of us who had never gone to Worlds (to) see the best of the best perform. One of my favorite memories from the trip was definitely watching the world finals. I think that’s also true for a lot of my teammates.”

This moment meant a great deal for both of these programs — but for different reasons. 

For Windermere, it not only was the eye-opening experience Pagan described but also a much-deserved reward following a season that required perseverance by the truckload. 

For Horizon, Worlds was both a celebration of the 3-year-old program’s fast rise and a chance to test of its capabilities on the biggest stage.

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Celebration of perseverance

To call the early portion of Windermere’s season difficult would be an understatement. In fact, just having competed in this winter guard season tested the squad’s resilience.

“It was a very challenging year for us,” Windermere weapons technician Nicole Pagan said. “Those girls just have my heart; seeing them push through all that instability was incredible.” 

One of the key members of the Wolverine guard that made this season possible was band director Marc Kolodinsky. 

“The most instrumental person in this whole season, the person who made sure the whole thing did not collapse, is our band director,” Nicole Pagan said. “He’s the reason why the girls always had a practice site, always had somebody there with them. The kids never missed a beat because of him, although, he’ll never take credit for it, and he’ll just say he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s been at every color guard show, every single practice. … He really stepped up for these girls, and in my time in the world of color guard, I’ve never seen a band director do this.”

Kolodinsky doesn’t want the credit for the season’s success, he’s just happy to help.

“As the teacher of record for the color guard, I feel it’s my job to give them the opportunity to succeed,” he said. “For me, watching them perform and do what they do best is personally very gratifying. I’m just grateful to be part of the team, and I thank the kids all the time because they’re really the ones who do the work. I just help facilitate.”

Ultimately, the team was able to rally to compete and eventually celebrate their perseverance by being one of the two West Orange or Southwest Orange teams to compete on the world championship stage. With their beach-themed routine, “After the Boys of Summer Have Gone,” Windermere posted a score of 79.130 in the prelims and finished seventh in their round.  

“The fact that this team stuck together through all the changes, worked all season together as a team and put on great performances … is just simply incredible,” Kolodinsky said. “It’s truly a testament to this group and their collective work ethic.”

Ahead of schedule

For a Horizon program still in its infancy, Worlds represented its literal and figurative arrival on the big stage.

“When I first started the program three years ago, getting to this point was definitely not in the five-year plan,” Garcia said. “But this is just a huge reflection of these girls’ hard work and how motivated they are to not only create a positive environment but to use that positive environment to become competitive at the local, state and national levels. I think the opportunity to compete at worlds not only reflected their hard work in terms of skill, but it showed all of the work they’ve put into building our program at Horizon.”

Horizon’s accomplishments this season, not only competing and advancing at worlds but also winning the Florida Federation of Color Guards championship, are examples of how the positive and competitive environment Garcia mentions is helping shape the program. 

Another example of that environment is the attitude with which the Hawks approached their opportunity to perform on the biggest platform. 

“Just getting the opportunity to be there was so rewarding, because … it felt like a victory lap of sorts,” junior Gianna Mulloy said. “Because at the FFCA championships, which is like our state championships, we accomplished our goal of finishing first, and that was already rewarding enough for me. But then getting to go to Dayton and compete at the WGI World Championships, we as a team just felt really proud of our season. It just felt right to be competing at that level. It felt like we deserved to be there and that was an amazing experience for us to have in our first time there.”

With its dazzling routine, “Sweater Weather,” Horizon advanced past the prelims and reached the semifinal round of the WGI — posting a score of 86.595 in its final routine of the season. That score earned the Hawks a ninth-place finish in their round. 

“Going to Dayton and competing at worlds for the first time in our history, and having some success, being one of the people that accomplished that for our school … that’s a beautiful memory and experience for us to have,” Mulloy said. “That’s especially true for us when we consider that we did something this cool in high school at such a young age. It just feels really rewarding and like something we’ll carry with us throughout our lives.”



Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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