The title of ‘Champion’ is one some Oakdale students have become accustomed to. Now, 18 Oakdale Junior High students find themselves amongst this group as the recently named Scholastic Junior High A Class Champions for Central Valley Guard and Percussion.
Led by 24-year Color Guard veteran and Coach Danesa Menge, the team secured the top honor at Enochs High School in late March. Menge, also a teacher with Oakdale Junior High, shared the win took her back to her own years of competing as a student and Color Guard teammate.
“It’s been a long time coming, I think,” Menge said, noting that she first began coaching OJUSD Color Guard in 2004 and competing with the team during 2005 and 2006.
This is the first year, since she began coaching the OJHS team, that it has competed on its own, as Oakdale High School’s guard now performs independently. The OJHS team secured four first place honors this year and one fourth place.
“It’s been a solid year,” Menge stated.
As an after school elective, seventh and eighth grade students give up two afternoons a week to practice with the team for as much as three hours at a time.
“I enjoy the creativity and the strength of holding a team together,” eighth grader Lainey Speegle said. “It’s fun and you get to have a family. You can’t just let that go. It’s more of an artistic sport.”
Now in her second year of performing, Lainey shared she intends to continue her passion for guard when she attends Oakdale High School, making mention of the camaraderie and bond shared by the team throughout the season.
“I love the performance and being on the stage,” fellow classmate Lynn Godfrey said. “I love how our team comes together like a family.”
As their coach as well as their teacher, Menge candidly shared the highs as well as lows of coaching a team with varying personalities, skill sets and expectations.
“The past two weeks of the season they really came together, because they knew what they really wanted,” she said. “As a coach you can’t make it happen as much as you have to let them do it on their own and as a coach it’s just so touching to see.”
Recalling the win and the surprise of being named champions for the first time in their coach’s career, the team noted the emotion and pride they felt.
“That feeling was just so incredible,” second year team member Emma Avilla admitted.
“It makes me so proud that I had a hand in that and that they’re so passionate like I was,” the coach stated. “That’s probably the biggest payback.”
“It meant more to us because it was Menge’s first win,” Lainey said. “That’s really what pushed us to the max. We wanted to win it for Menge.”