I would be remiss if I never went back and celebrated the band's victory because of the tragedy that occured afterward... and so
Thursday, October 20, 2005
By Phil Pfuehler, Editor
For the first time since 2000 - five long years - the high school Marching Wildcats brought back the top trophy for best overall performance during statewide competition Saturday at the UW-Whitewater campus.
"It was a great time to peak when you're at state," said band co-director Joe Coughlin. "We're excited. I'd love to bring home many more of these trophies."
The Marching Wildcats have won top state honors many, many times since 1985.
They were consecutive state champs from 1987-1992 and again from 1998-2000.
This is the first state championship for Coughlin and the band's other co-director, Bryan Jaeckel.
Coughlin and Jaeckel saw their students have a very successful fall competition, with a number of top finishes, both for overall performance and in various categories.
Saturday's score of 90.25 at Whitewater, however, was the band's highest all year.
"The goal is to keep improving, and that's what the students did," Coughlin said. "That turned it into a fantastic season."
Despite the competitive environment, Coughlin said the River Falls band conducted itself in a friendly, respectful way toward other high school bands.
"Our focus has never been on the victories," he said. "Our aim is to work hard, keep getting better each week, and to show commitment and teamwork. If the results go our way, wonderful."
Aside from the top overall ranking, the Wildcats also earned "best" honors Saturday for: Visual Presentation; Color Guard; and Percussion.
The band has 125 members - 82 winds, 26 percussionists and 17 color guards.
Jubilation turned bittersweet Sunday when local staff, parents and band members learned of a fatal bus accident involving another competing marching band from Chippewa Falls.
One of the returning Chippewa Falls buses crashed into a semi-trailer truck that had jackknifed across I-94 near Osseo. Many were injured and several people died. Among the dead was the school's longtime band director, 48-year-old Douglas Greenhalgh.
River Falls band directors Coughlin and Jaeckel both have connections to Chippewa Falls High School and Greenhalgh.
Coughlin attended high school there, was a band student and later served as a band director assistant while enrolled at UW-Eau Claire. Jaeckel was a student-teacher under Greenhalgh band's program.
"It's still hard to believe what happened," Coughlin said Tuesday. "(Greenhalgh) was a pretty good friend and a mentor. He was a very compassionate and energetic man."
Coughlin said Greenhalgh was the last person he talked to as the River Falls group left Whitewater Saturday night.
"He congratulated me in the parking lot and said great show," Coughlin said. "Then we shook hands and hugged."
Coughlin encouraged people to give to an endowment fund that was set up to benefit the Chippewa Falls High School music department.
"This will offer some lasting help," Coughlin said of the special fund.
Checks can be made out to "Community Foundation of Chippewa County." They can be mailed to or dropped off at the River Falls High School, 818 Cemetery Road, in care of Coughlin or Jaeckel.
The teachers will collect all donations and send them to the endowment fund in Chippewa Falls.
Let's hear it for the band!
Thursday, October 20, 2005
By Editorial staff of The River Falls Journal
This high school activity doesn't often make front-page news, but students who perform in the River Falls High School marching band have a tradition of not only furnishing great halftime entertainment at football games, but also phenomenal success in statewide competition.
Of course most of you know the Marching Wildcats took first in Saturday's state tournament. But did you know that a Marching Wildcat team has claimed a state title in 13 of the past 20 years?
Talk about an awesome tradition!
Even before Saturday, the Marching Wildcats were on a roll with this string of achievements, including:
- Sept. 10, Champlin, Minn.: First place for the band and the "outstanding" (top) award for the color guard.
- Sept. 24, Irondale, Minn.: First place for the band; outstanding awards for percussion and color guard.
- Oct. 2, Merrill: Another first place for the band, and top awards for percussionists and color guard.
- Oct. 8, Chippewa Falls: Band comes away with second place award.
- Oct. 9, Menomonie: Band takes another first; percussionists return with an outstanding award.
The Marching Wildcat band is directed by Joe Coughlin and Bryan Jaeckel. Band students deserve high praise for their energy, stamina and musical flair, and for the fine way they represent the River Falls community throughout Wisconsin.
To show support for the band - and for the entire instrumental music program with its various bands - consider attending an indoor concert, dinner and auction Saturday, Nov. 5, at the high school gym and commons, beginning at 5 p.m. Merchants or individuals wishing to donate items for the auction can call Tim Iehl at ###-####.