Purchase photos

Quality over quantity for FHSU alum's band

10/29/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A sprained ankle was not going to keep Gwendolyn Cockrun from participating in this school event.

So there she was, walking boot and all, helping direct her high school band at Monday's High Plains Marching Band Festival at Fort Hays State University's Lewis Field Stadium.

Cockrun, a junior at Stanton County High School in Johnson, severely sprained her ankle Oct. 4, and her doctor advised crutches and no weight-bearing.

"I told the doctor I have to get a walking boot," Cockrun said, informing him she had to march with her band in less than three weeks.

It had been 13 years since Stanton County had participated in the festival, and Cockrun was impressed -- as were her fellow band members -- when they came to Hays her freshman year.

"We came two years ago, and we listened and were blown away," she said.

"Now that we get to come and actually perform ..." Cockrun added, not finishing the sentence but just shaking her head with a big smile on her face.

Following that road trip in 2011, band members asked their new teacher, Jonathan Yust, if they could perform there.

He finally agreed this would be a good year to try it.

"The marching band (in Johnson) hadn't done something like this in over a decade," said Yust, a 2009 graduate of FHSU who is in his third year at Stanton County. "So this was a big step. They told me three weeks into class they wanted to do this (this year). Most schools start their marching routines the first week of school, so we were a little behind."

The Trojans still impressed their bus driver.

"I thought they sounded real good," said Steve Shepherd, who has worked for 20 years for USD 452 in the far southwest corner of the state.

Although the smallest band participating -- by far -- with just 18 members, people in the stands also gave the Trojans a hand Monday after playing "Don't Stop Believing."

With it being their first try at the festival in several years, Yust said the Trojans participated for "comments only," rather than earning a rating.

"It'll be good to see what the judges have to say," he said. "It's a start."