|  In the summer of 2000, I was teaching at a small school in Buffalo, W.Va. when I had my first up-close encounter with the Cadets of Bergen County. At first, I was reticent to even voice my desire to march, but after spending two days watching them rehearse and perform, I knew that I would become a member of this organisation.|
|  In April of 2001, I had just ended my stint with Mon Valley Express, a guard that I would describe as a "wicked eighties guard who didn't like the fact that I wanted to be the best." So, it was this event that made me decide that I was going to audition for the Cadets. So, I got me Mum to ship me my sleeping bag, bought some dance shoes, and stayed up all night doing laundry and watching Cadets videos while spinning. Then, I was off to the weekend that would change my life, forever...|
|  So, I auditioned. I was terrified the entire time, and spoke to MAYBE three or four people the whole weekend. I thought I did horribly...but, Emma Roberts saw something in me that caused her to talk to Dean...and I was told on Saturday night that I would, indeed, have a spot. I was now a Cadet...a dream that I'd had since I was seven. I was a Cadet. So, I went home early, Sunday, and began to prepare for tour.|
|  When I arrived at Cadets, I was terrified. I had never really been a member of a "real" guard, and here I was...surrounded by "real" guard people; people who had run the gamut that I would just begin this summer. However, at the same time, I knew that this was where I belonged. I may have been a little premature in getting there, because I knew I needed more experience, but I was there...and that was all that mattered. Thus, I began training with the Cadets guard of 2001, and had one of the most trying months of my life.
After a month of Spring Training, we headed out to Gettysburgh, Pennsylvania, and began our trek acorss the country...from Rhode Island, to Florida, to California, to Texas, we travelled around the country, performing nearly every night, and experiencing gains and losses.
A difficult season from the start, we all knew that we had our work cut out for us. When we left Allentown, Penn., we knew that our show was nowhere NEAR finished. We had just put Farandole on the field, and completed our first full-run of a show that would barely resemble the finished product. We were told before we even boarded the busses that we had many things to change about our show.
The guard, especially, struggled to churn out a product. Between waiting for our first set of show flags to be finished and on our poles, and learning work to be put on the field that evening, we were exhausted. Our final day at Allentown, we were rehearsing on Labuda Field (which is known for its foot-deep trench on the back hash) when it began to rain...pour rather. So, we attempted to take shelter in what we called the Betty Ford Clinic (which was a student centre), and were told that we had to leave. This was the first time that I knew Dean would go to bat for us, when he stood up to the administration and fought them, tooth and nail. We were, however, forced to walk to the Field House, across two fields and in the rain. When we got there, we all just collapsed from exhaustion, and we were actually allowed, this time.
Minutes before our first full run of our show, as it were, we all received our flags for Farandole. It was at this time that I realised that we were really on our way and that our season had started.
Once in Gettysburgh, we were ushered into heated dorms, much like a German prison, and tried to sleep the few hours we could. The next morning, my mother came, washed my clothes, brought us food, and we got fitted for uniforms. However, torrential downpour forced us to perform in our windsuits in a stand-still performance on a soggy lacrosse field. FUN! Finally, we left for the real tour to begin, and my summer truly began.
|  The next few weeks, we discovered that our show was NOT a hit. The opener was lacklustre, and we knew something had to be tweaked; Moondance was a tragedy on ice...too long; too many glitches; too much dancing (and not clean dancing, at that); not enough movement from the corps; the drum feature was boring...NO ONE liked it, especially not the guard; the Ballad, Vide Cor Meum, was NOT happening, guard wise...it was too confusing to follow, work wise, and we just didn't have a feel for it, yet; and Farandole was another mess, entirely...the flagline's work, however, was the highlight of the piece (and remained unchanged ALL season)...the curve line learned new work EVERY day to replace work that just didn't happen...and the most impressive part of our show, the flag feature during the run at the end of the song kept getting harder and longer, by the day. One day, we'd add four counts...the next, four more...the next, eight more. We went from a sixteen county hold, to a thirty-two count hold in less than two weeks...but, George just kept reminding us that it was getting better...and it was...|
|  In California, on, we began putting the changes in that would make or break us. We hadn't been scoring well, and the guard was STILL a sore spot for the corps...or so, we were told. One night, it came down to breaking into the 90's...we were told that at least one section of the corps had to break 19 to get a 90...and the guard was the section, much to everyone's disbelief. But, we STILL weren't good enough. We hated our opener flags (the tiger striped ones) and we had just added a new flag feature to Moondance, in order to balance out the fact that the whole song was a dance number. In addition, we had just reworked the entire ballad, from start to finish. We were now interacting with our sitting, lying, or squatting hornplayers, and doing ripples, and whatever else we could to get something worth watching. And Farandole was another mess, entirely. We worked K to the end of the show incessantly for a week, straight, during every block. Finally, we began to be the guard we knew we were. And then, it was off to Houston, for the first Regional.|
|  After that, our season began come full circle. We had become a hit. No longer the fourth-place corps who were the victims of an judge-unfriendly; we had become a third-place corps with a show that delighted both judges and audiences, alike. One judge commented that Moondance was "perhaps the best jazz piece to ever be put on the field." At each Regional, we premiered a new flag, a new piece of drill, and a new section of work. In Houston, we used the tiger-stiped monstrosities for the last time. In Murfreesborough, we did away with the opener silks, and used plain purple flags, and we premiered the new blue Moondance flags, surprising the audience who had seen us in rehearsal that afternoon. In Indiana, we premiered new flagwork, and in Philly, we came out with new ballad flags. The week of finals, we finished our new set of flags by premiering our new opener flags, which made a great impression upon the visual judge in Finals.|
|  And finally, after three months, our season came to a close. We had struggled all summer, and were finally rewarded with a tie in second place with the Blue Devils. It was a battle hard fought, but we had come out on top. There was no question that this season of the Cadets had been one of the hallmark groups in Cadets history. Through trials and tribulations, we stood tall, and staked our claim. And the season was a total success. And I was a Cadet.|