Eerie music starts to play as 13 Morris Community High School girls take the stage, frozen in place, looking like dolls.
As the music, “Attic After Dark – Forgotten Dolls,” plays, the dolls come to life with a somber expression on their faces, and then the fun begins as the Morris Winterguard starts its choreographed routine.
“The little things that Mrs. [Laura] Zomboracz choreographed into the routine make it creepy and perfect,” Captain Laurel Harper, a junior at MCHS, said.
Dolls have a certain creep factor for some people, and the music plays into the feeling.
“My worst fear is dolls, so it’s kinda creepy, but I love it,” sophomore Brianna Weinshenker said.
Coach Zomboracz formed the team during the 2012-13 school year, but the team didn’t participate in competitions the entire season. This year, it has taken the Team Dance Illinois circuit by storm and will be competing Sunday in Peoria for the state title.
Zomboracz said winterguard is a combination of sport and arts and is often referred to as the sport of art. It’s a spinoff of color guard, which typically performs with the marching band during football games and parades.
“For winterguard, you always have to have a theme,” Zomboracz said. “This year, they wanted something on the darker side.”
Zomboracz reached out to Joseph Purdy in Nevada to have the music written just for the team.
The season started in November with the team working 15 to 16 hours a week learning and mastering the routine. Zomboracz said it took about two months to learn the four-minute show.
The performance includes props, flag and rifle twirling, and a little bit of acting – skills many of the girls came in without.
“At auditions, I didn’t catch one toss, it was bad,” Weinshenker said. “It took like two weeks to learn.”
Zomboracz said the girls who try out often have a dance or music background, but even when they don’t, the veterans step in to help.
It’s about more than the performance for the girls, who come from different walks of life and end up friends by the end of the season.
“This team is the closest group of friends I’ve ever had. It’s a blessing to come so far with them,” Weinshenker said.
Harper said some days it’s hard with so many girls and emotions all coming together on the practice floor.
“Some days, someone will be really emotional, and we are all so close that it affects everyone,” Harper said. “As a captain, I try to constantly be there for everyone on the team.”
Zomboracz, who herself was involved in winterguard, has passed down her love of the art.
“Mrs. Z is the only one I know who has been on a winterguard team,” Harper said. “I was in band my first year and saw how fun they made the flags. Now I’m already thinking about how I could do this after high school.”
Life after high school is the last thing on Harper’s mind as she and co-captain senior Emaly Garcia take their girls to state.
“This is the first full year for winterguard, and they set a goal to get to state,” Zomboracz said. “It’s not surprising they got there in their first year.”
In addition to the competitions to get to state, the winterguard has performed at both girls and boys varsity basketball games during halftime, along with poms, which competes in the same circuit as the winterguard.