Bearcats set record, march to second-place finish in state finals

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By Meaghan Downs

With only five minutes to go before their semifinal performance Saturday, the Anderson County Marching Bearcats were running.
Band director Patrick Brady and 86 Anderson County high school and middle school students sprinted the half mile from their warm-up field to South Oldham High School after confusion over schedule logistics gave the band only minutes to make it to its semi-final performance.
The band didn’t jog or walk briskly, Brady said Monday morning. They flat-out ran, he said.
Once the pre-show music hit, however, the students skipped onto the field. Musicians held hands, stretched their arms out to fly like airplanes as they embraced their inner child for “Imagination,” this year’s marching band show focusing on childhood wonderment.
After worrying that his mistake cost the band a trip to the finals, Brady knelt to the ground in relief when he found out that not only would Anderson County be performing at 4A state finals, but the band also captured first place.  
This season’s aspirational mantra “#finalsbound” — boldly proclaimed on the band’s T-shirts, bandanas and other gear — was no longer a promise, but a fact.  
“It’s kind of a bold statement that a group that never made finals before made it last year, and said they were going to make it again this year,” Brady said.   
Brady said there was a statistically slim chance Anderson County would perform at finals for the second year in a row. After losing 20 high school seniors, the marching band gained 29 middle school students.
But young Anderson County band went on to beat 15 other marching bands in the 4A class, breaking into the top four and receiving their highest score in school history at 93.85 out of 100.
The Marching Bearcats placed second in the state for Class 4A with a score of 89.5, 1.36 points behind 4A repeat state champion Madisonville North Hopkins.
 “I was kind of expecting to make finals, but I never tell myself it’s going to happen,” Brady said. “Since [marching band is] an opinionated sport, you have to be really careful about setting up kids for failure. “
Much could go awry, especially during a windy and cold day of competition last Saturday.
Because playing too long in the 37 degree cold turns the pitch of wind instruments flat and percussion instruments sharp, Brady said, the band sat in the warmth of the bus for as long as possible while band parents helped set up. Usually the band helps, he said.
Anderson County marching band alumni, parents and school staff also helped fill out the cheering section for the band during Saturday’s event.  
Five principals and a girls’ basketball coach from the Anderson County high school and middle school attended Saturday’s competition to cheer the marching band on, Brady said, along with most of last year’s class of marching band seniors.
Last weekend’s state finals won’t be the last time the Marching Bearcats will be in competition. The band will be competing Nov. 9 against 42 other bands across the country at the Bands of America Super Regional Championships. The band will be performing at 4:30 p.m. the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Up until 4A state regionals, Brady said, the band hadn’t brought home any competition trophies much to the disappointment of some of the band members.
But the band isn’t building a closet to house its growing trophy collection.
They’re building a legacy, Brady said.