Toss, spin, catch: inside world of winter guard


Katrina Nalle, Staff Editor

The lights softly shimmer on the floor as the performers move into position. Music begins to swirl around the dancers as they begin their show with grace, poise and. . . swords? 

Welcome to guard, the unique sport that enthralls performer, coach and director Kelsey Arnony.

Guard, including color guard and winter guard involves dance and spinning equipment. Six-foot flags as well as appurtenances such as mock rifles, sabers, batons and air blades are used to perform a three to seven minute show. To many, including Arnony, guard is more of a lifestyle than a simple hobby.

“Guard to me is my outlet to express how I am feeling,” Arnony said. “No matter if it’s happy, sad, mad or stressed, I can go outside with my equipment, find a song that fits and just spin to let it all out.” 

Arnony started performing as a teenager with the Plainfield Winter Guard, a team made up of all four Plainfield high schools. Later, she would go on to perform in Drum Corps International and Winter Guard International, major professional marching competitions, finishing off her competitive career with Onyx World, a renowned winter guard, in 2019.

“I think one of my favorite experiences that I got from performing with Onyx World was getting to perform in front of huge crowds, especially at WGI finals,” Arnony said.

After teaching color and winter guard at different schools, Arnony returned to her alma mater, Plainfield Central, as a volunteer marching band coach and later joined the faculty.

“I was brought on as a staff member at Plainfield Central for the fall guard for the 2017/2018 seasons, and in 2019 I took over and became the director,” Arnony said.

The original Plainfield Winter Guard started in 2008 and actively competed until the Covid-19 pandemic, competing virtually through the 2021 season. Arnony started working with the guard then, trying to keep the ball rolling after many students and staff chose not to return. 

“There was talk for a while between the band director at Central about starting Plainfield Winter Guard back up,” Arnony said. “We found the perfect opportunity to bring it back out in 2021. With Covid still going on, we weren’t one hundred percent sure what the season would look like.”

After performing  for years, she wants to share what makes her the happiest with her students. 

“Not only did she bring back Plainfield Winter Guard, but she has expanded our fall and winter guards so much more than any of us could have ever imagined,” said junior Justin Siegmund, a Central color guard member under Arnony’s tutelage. “Kelsey is just that person.”

As an inspiration to her students, she, too, has had her share of inspiration. Arnony’s grateful for all the coaching opportunities she’s been given.

North student Cassidy Stephenson concurs. “Kelsey’s impact on the Plainfield Winter Guard and the Plainfield Central High School Color Guard is very positive,” Stephenson said. “She is fostering a wonderful community for people to learn guard, and she is passing on her passion to a younger generation.”

As a new director, Arnony has faced many challenges such as getting through the pandemic, figuring out travel plans, getting a show written as well as making big changes. Through it all, she remains hopeful for her students.

“Plainfield Winter Guard will be coming out with a second guard, which will be made up of District 202 seventh and eighth graders and District 202 High Schools,” Arnony said. “We are super excited about getting to introduce Color Guard to the members earlier, so we can build the programs at all four Plainfield high schools and the Plainfield Winter Guard.”

She believes guard has helped her social life and emotional well-being. Along with physicality aspects coming naturally from sport, she’s also gained much mental support. 

“The most important thing to me I have learned is that I don’t have to be perfect all of the time,” Arnony said. “I can mess up, and it’s not the end of the world, so as long as I work hard to fix what needs to be fixed, it will all be okay.”