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So, what’s the “Secret Identity” of the Anderson County High School Marching Bearcats?
The third-best marching band in the state, that’s what.
In front of 10,000 screaming fans during Saturday’s state finals at Barren County High School, the team finished its season with its highest finish in school history, falling just short of state champion Madisonville North Hopkins and second place finisher Grant County.
The team has spent the season performing “My Secret Identity,” a shtick that features a costume change midstream during which they don superhero costumes complete with a sparkling “A” on their chests.
The team competed earlier that night in the state semifinals, and waited nervously after its performance to find out if it would be among the four teams chosen of the 16 that competed and reach the first state finals in school history.
The announcer named Madisonville, Grant and John Hardin before finally saying Anderson.
“That was pretty nerve-wracking,” said band director Patrick Brady, who guided the team to a seventh-place finish last year in state competition, at the time the highest the school had ever placed.
During the finals, Brady said most in attendance were aware that it was the school’s first finals appearance.
“When they announced, ‘This is the Anderson County Marching Band,’ the place went nuts,” Brady said, adding that the crowd was at least five times larger than anything the team had every performed for. “At the end, we got a standing ovation.”
When the final results were tallied, the team and Brady expected to be called fourth, but were surprised yet again.
“We were glad to be there and were expecting our name to be called in fourth place,” he said. “So when we were called for third, the kids were all super excited.
“It wasn’t just our first state final, we actually finished third.”
Brady said the team was a little nervous when it came time to perform in the finals, but months of hard work paid off.
“They practiced this show so much that it’s almost muscle memory,” he said. “It was really great.”
Just making the state semifinals was a strong accomplishment, but getting their after earning a spot was difficult, too.
Brady said the team was staying about 20 minutes away in Horse Cave but needed nearly two hours to arrive at Barren County High School because of a bad accident on US 65.
In charge since 2009, Brady’s team has become the epitome of hard work, spending countless hours during summer vacation perfecting its performance in the high school parking lot.
With 20 seniors on the team that have been with him since their freshman years, Brady said this year’s squad didn’t have to rely on hard work as much as knowing how to follow his commands and buying into his program.
“The kids are so much more intelligent,” he said. “They know what it takes now.”
Brady said one team member nearly decided not to participate during his first year because she thought the band performed fairly well despite his constant admonitions that it didn’t.
“She didn’t like me in 2010,” he said. “I told them how bad they were all the time, but she thought it was pretty good.
“Now, when we go back and listen and compare, she realizes that it was not good then.
“Now, the kids have settled for nothing but as close as they can get to excellence. If they perform near perfections, they’ll be better than all the other kids.”
It’s that pursuit of perfection that the team’s 20 seniors have carried on to their younger teammates. The 83-person roster also includes 26 middle school students who have learned from their older teammates what it takes to succeed.
“They were started out right,” said Brady, who also credited his staff and the team’s parents for the success.
“That’s one of the things I tell other directors when they ask how we got so good, so fast,” he said. “Sometimes it will take 10 to 12 years to turn a program around.”
Brady credited two staff members — Tim Allen and Tim Blevins, each of whom are retired but spent careers leading high school teams into the state finals.
As for the parents, he said their change has mirrored that of his team.
“My first year there were a lot of questions,” he said. “Is this necessary? Are you kidding me? Now they ask what we need up front and say they’ll make it happen.
“They never question anything. They hem uniforms, wash clothes and are very, very supportive.”