Marching Panthers make stunning history at U of I

(Photo by Heather Jones)

(Photo by Heather Jones)

Special seasons are trademarked by special moments, and the OTHS Marching Panthers may have had their first of what could be a remarkable 2016 campaign on Saturday night, taking home the Grand Champion prize at the Illinois Marching Band Championships for the second straight year.

The Panther repeat becomes even more impressive when considering the stature of competition at this season’s competition.

O’Fallon took home first place in 6A competition, scoring an 89.15, over ten points ahead of second place Downers Grove South. Minooka Community took third, edging Neuqua Valley for placement status.

The Marching Panthers took home all three captions, winning Best Music, Best Visual, and Best General Effect.

Class 5A competition was only slightly closer, as perennial state power Prospect took first, along with all three captions, at just under 10 points ahead of second place Rock Island. Romeoville squeaked past Elk Grove Village for third.

4A competition featured Illinois marching band royalty, and [Chicago Heights] Marian Catholic did not disappoint, sweeping all captions en route to a dominant class win over second place Normal West. Bloomington would take third.

The evening’s largest prize, however, would come down to the event’s three heavyweights; Marian Catholic, Prospect, and O’Fallon. What came next would shake the marching world to its core.

O’Fallon, a band from a relatively small town well south of hotbed Chicago, took a swing at the undisputed king of the state, and as the old adage warns, the Panthers did not miss.

O’Fallon 89.15. Marian Catholic 86.20. Absolute pandemonium.

Marian Catholic is a rare breed of program; a private school from the big city with an unmatched pedigree of excellence. The band has never missed a BOA Grand Nationals Finals, placing among the nation’s top 12 bands for over three decades.

But on Saturday night, the established power took a back seat to one of the country’s fastest rising powers, and for one glorious evening, the Marching Panthers took their turn at Illinois’ marching throne.

The 2016 season will continue this coming weekend in St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome when O’Fallon will take place in the Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional. Preliminary competition will take place on Friday and Saturday, with the top 14 groups advancing to Finals on Saturday evening. OTHS is a seven time Finalist at the event and figures to be in the mix for the second round again this year.