The Broad Run High School (BRHS) Winter Guard is a member of the Atlantic Indoor Association (AIA). The AIA is considered a “local circuit” — competitions cover a limited geographic region. This competitive circuit includes both winter guards and color guards from Virginia and North Carolina and a few guards from Maryland and West Virginia.
The national winter guard competition circuit is hosted by Winter Guard International (WGI). WGI holds regional competitions throughout the country and a world championship in held in April each year. BRHS has competed at WGI championships as well as AIA competitions.
The AIA has set up their competitive divisions according to the standards set by WGI. There are two main divisions in the competition circuit — “scholastic” guards are those groups associated with a school, and “independent” guards are those not associated with any particular school or are made up of students from many different schools. These two divisions are divided into competitive classes based on the skill level of the performers and designers. On the national level, “A class” is the lowest competitive class, “Open Class” is the next step up, and “World Class” feature guards with the most skilled competitors and design teams. “Scholastic” guards are limited to students who are still in high school; A Class and Open Class Independent color/winter guards have an age limit of 22 years old; “World Class” independent guards have no age limit.
Because the majority of groups competing at the local level are “A class” color guards, the AIA has further divided this class for competition. In AIA, the novice class is set up for 1st year beginner color/winter guards. The next step up is Regional A class, A-3, followed by A-2 and A-1. The A-1 color/winter guards are considered the “National A” guards as they are theoretically capable of being competitive at the national level.
Broad Run has competed at AIA competitions as A-3, A-2, and A-1 classes (a group can move from level to level based on their finishing placement at certain competitions). As in the national hierarchy, AIA also has open class and world class color guards. There are also middle school and senior guards competing in AIA.
The various classes have slightly different requirements in terms of how the performances are judged and therefore, you can’t necessarily compare scores between classes. The performance time limit for “A Class” guards is between 4 to 5 ½ minutes for the entire show from floor placement, performance, and floor and prop removal. “World Class” groups are allowed longer time intervals. The reason for this difference is to allow the lower level guards to focus more on perfecting their skills than learning a longer show. The shorter show to learn gives the performers more time to work on perfecting equipment and dance skills.
Each year, the top performers or the “medalists classes” are promoted to the next higher class for the following year’s competition. There are instances where a winter/color guard might be promoted earlier in the season. For example, if a color/winter guard begins competition in the regional A class but is clearly far superior to every other group in that class, the group may be promoted mid-season to the next higher competitive class. A group promoted mid-season is automatically recognized at championships with a medal marking their achievement regardless of their success in the new class.
Both AIA and WGI host percussion competitions in conjunction with their guard competitions. The Winter Guard will often accompany the BRHS marching percussion unit (referred to as the Indoor Drumlines or IDL) to one or two of their competitions during the season. The Guard and Drumline support each other and will often pull the other group’s floor at a co-located competition.