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Marching Wildcats claim 'AAA' title at UW-Whitewater Saturday

Part of the tradition with winning a state title is a ride on the River Falls ladder truck. Most of the Marching Wildcats' 24 senior members were on hand for the celebration. Ella Dzubay photo

For the third consecutive year, the River Falls Marching Wildcat band has won first place in the AAA Division Saturday at the State Marching Band Championships held at UW-Whitewater.

The 115-member band, under the direction of Bryan Jaeckel and Joe Coughlin, returned to a champion's welcome Sunday afternoon with River Falls police and firefighters escorting them down Main Street and out to the high school.

The award culminates four months of practice and performance of the season's show, "Bellus Noctis". The routine includes portions of four songs -- Kashmir, The Ludlows, Serra Pelada and When the Levee Breaks.

The caravan of four buses, two school-owned Sprinter vans, a rental truck and trailer loaded with gear, departed Friday afternoon. Students and chaparones spent two nights in the Palmyra Middle School between rehearsals and Saturday evening's competition at UW-Whitewater.

The group also earned awards for best color guard, best musical presentation and best visual presentation.

Drum majors for the band are Ben Helmrick and Hunter Bothwell. Guard captains include Abby Andrle and Dagny McClelland.

Over the past 24 years, the River Falls band has won its class in marching band competition 15 times, according to the Wisconsin School Music Assocation program.

Jaeckel is also a member of the 2009 WSMA Marching Band Committee, an elected position. The group meets twice annually and advises WSMA directors on marching band activity.

Saturday's competition began at noon, concluded about 10 p.m. and featured performances by about 35 bands.

Other area schools that competed included the Baldwin-Woodville Marching Blackhawks in class A and the Hudson High School Marching Band in class AAAA, which performed for a critique only, not competition.