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South Pointe High drum line plays with the best

For 4 minutes and 30 seconds, the South Pointe Winter Drum Line had the attention of the world.

After going undefeated in the Carolina circuit, the 23-student drum line performed its routine earlier this month in special South Pointe red-and-black uniforms in front of thousands. It placed 35th at the Winter Guard International World Championships in Dayton, Ohio.

"It was pretty awesome," said Lamar Thompson, a junior who plays the snare drum for the Band of Thunder, as the ensemble is known. "Seeing all the high-schoolers on a higher level than us - rehearsing and playing - was so awesome.

"We were around the best drummers in the world."

In its 33rd year, there were more than 11,000 participants from 40 states and four countries at the three-day WGI. South Pointe competed against 53 other teams in its marching division with a drum line and front ensemble. Performances are scored on the drum line's visual look, playing ability and the overall effect.

The ensemble began practicing for competition in November. Titled "UN," the routine involved marching and playing instruments and employed original music from a Louisiana composer.

The musicians practiced together and at home for hours. Revisions were constant.

In addition to rehearsals as a group for six hours a week, the drum line got together for a camp in December to learn the show and two full days over spring break to further refine the routine.

"We were going very hard-core," Thompson said. "It was crucial to have good rehearsals to get better for the championships."

South Pointe made it to the world championship for the first time after placing sixth at the WGI Regional in Spartanburg, competing against ensembles from five states. This year, the drum line was undefeated in the Carolina Winter Ensemble Association circuit, placing first at the championship three weeks ago at Winthrop Coliseum.

"It's been an incredible year for us; they exceeded our expectations," said James Turner, South Pointe's band director. "The students were disappointed because they knew they could have performed a little bit better, but its being our first time there, it was a learning experience."

The arena in Dayton was huge. Practice was chaotic, with dozens of percussion groups taking the floor. The enormity of the event was exciting.

Brian Turner, South Pointe's percussion teacher, was awed by the competition.

"It was something you obviously couldn't prepare for," he said. "You have to experience it first to get a true understanding of what the world championship is like."

The drum line got one chance to impress the judges. An average routine was delivered, and South Pointe did not make it to the second round.

"If you don't have a great run on your first performance - that's it," Brian Turner said. "It's very tough. You don't get second chances."

For Quincy Goode, a sophomore who plays bass drum, the world championship became a rare opportunity to see the best percussionists.

"It was really good to see all the groups and what we could be like in the future," he said. "We are going to strive to get better. We have to challenge each other to do better."

In addition to taking in great performances, the one thing Goode will never forget: "The huge expo and all the stuff you can buy. I bought sticks and a shirt. It was really big."