Knights before nine

What students and faculty do before dawn to keep McCallum programs shining

On the morning of the 2019 Taco Shack Bowl, Blue Brigade Coach Nancy Honeycutt-Searl observes as the McCallum Blue Brigade and Band rehearses their kick routiine to “Hey Baby” by Bruce Channell, that they will be performing at the halftime show. Photo by Caleb Melville.

Anna McClellan, staff reporter

6 a.m.

The McCallum Cross Country sophomores Anna McClellan and Catalina Herring and freshman Helena Finos and Owen McGuire run “Big Loops” which start with a 200 on the track, then continue around the back side of the tennis courts and around the auxiliary field, and finish back at the track. “In the morning waking up is kinda hard,” Herring said. “But once we warm up I’m all ready to go for the day and I’m energized until lunch and then I’m exhausted.” The Knights arrive at six, meaning most of the team gets up at around 5 o’clock in the morning so they can make practice on time.

It’s six in the morning, and the McCallum cross country team is just beginning to warm up for their practice that day. Some people call them crazy, getting up so early, but as Coach Susan Ashton puts it, “Most everybody that wants to come to cross country has some sort of love for running, so they already love the sport, they want to run, they like running.”

Having to get up before six o’clock everyday can be tough, especially on meet days when the team has to meet at the field house at 5:45 a.m. But, the early start time helps the runners avoid both the heat and other extracurricular activities.

The team’s warm-up consists of three laps around the track. Two hundred of those meters are spent jogging, while the remaining distance is made by backpedaling and side-shuffling for 100 meters each. They then move on to static stretches and exercises, usually consisting of squats, planks, and push-ups. After that, the team splits into groups to complete their dynamic stretches, ending with buildups: where the runners start off jogging and then build up to a sprint.

They already love the sport, they want to run, they like running.

— Coach Susan Ashton

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the team can usually be found on a neighborhood run. Two common routes are on Arroyo Seco and the Brentwood Neighborhood and or running down Houston to the Texas Department of Health and turning towards Thundercloud Subs (no, they don’t get sandwiches). Tuesdays and Thursdays consist of track and sprint work, which might not be the team’s favorite days, but are important for building up speed. Fridays, Thursdays if there is a Friday meet, are for ice baths and breakfast tacos.

As they finish their warm-ups each day at around 6:30, the Cross-Country team can usually spot McCallum Band members heading over to the practice lot with their instruments, in their white t-shirts and colored shorts that define their sections. On sprint-work days, they get to hear the band play while they run.

6:30 a.m.

Caleb Melville
Marching Band students Nick Reedy, Beckett Randall and Will Russo practice early in the morning. The band members arrive for practice before 7 a.m. each morning and practice until 8:20. “Practice is pretty tough, but it’s fun,” Randall said. “We can see the improvement with each rehearsal.”

At 6:30 a.m., drum majors Jonah Brown (Junior) and Dexter Canning (Senior) arrive at McCallum to get ready for Marching Band practice that day.

The rest of the band arrives at approximately 6:40, then gather into their respective sections for a ten-minute warm-up, and promptly at 6:50 begin practice as a whole, rehearsing for this year’s show, Forever in Stone.

At the beginning of their rehearsal, the band practices marching, warms up together and then reviews their drills for that day. Sophomore Scarlet Frese said that there is no downtime during morning practice, the band is never unengaged. They are always marching, playing, and if they are on break, they have to hustle so time is not wasted.

After reviewing drills, they run through the show. Then later during the class periods, they are able to touch up and correct what they need.

“It’s not just marching band rehearsal in the morning, because we also keep working on it in our class periods,” head Marching Band Director, Zachary Travis said. “It’s like what are we fixing that morning, and we help reinforce it throughout the class period, or vice versa.”

On days that there are football games, Blue Brigade joins them out on the “field” (or parking lot, rather) and they will do a run-through of the halftime performance. And at 8:20 a.m., the band returns to the band hall to allow the students and directors to get ready for school. This also allows students to go in for tutoring and the directors to prepare for classes that day.

7:15 a.m.

Caleb Melville
The McCallum Blue Brigade rehearses with the band for their performance that night at the 2019 Taco Shack Bowl. Once a week, usually on game days, the Blue Brigade will go out and practice with the band to make sure they have everything down for their performance that night. “A lot of times we get a lot more out of practices before school because there is not as much distraction,” Blue Brigade Coach Nancy Honeycutt- Searle said. “When we do our after school practices their mind is all over the place, so we don’t pay as much attention to what we are trying to do.”

At 7:15, as the cross-country team is beginning to arrive back at McCallum and wind down practice, and the marching band still has a little over an hour left in their rehearsal, the McCallum Blue Brigade and Football team are arriving for their morning practice.

We get it done and out of the way

— Blue Brigade coach Nancy Honeycutt-Searle

Blue Brigade begins their official rehearsal right at 7:30 a.m., with captains leading a group stretch.
On Mondays, the Blue Brigade learns new dances or finishes up with old ones. Tuesdays are try-out days for dances being performed that week at pep rallies and games. Wednesdays formations are made and touch-ups are made to the dances, and on Thursdays, they practice with the band. If there is a pep rally that week, they practice in the gym as well. On Fridays (or any game day) the team will either run through their dance again with the band, or they will stay inside to make final touch-ups.

“Being first thing in the morning, there is much less distraction. It’s the first thing they can think of and concentrate on,” Blue Brigade Coach Nancy Honeycutt-Searle said. “We get it done and out of the way.”
Having practice or rehearsal in the morning and getting it out of the way seemed to be a common theme among coaches and directors.

9 a.m.

By 9 o’clock, everyone has finished their practices and are in their first or fifth periods. Getting up early can be exhausting, and being able to get up and have the motivation to get out of bed early can be hard. Somehow, these kids and teachers do it.

Graphic by Anna McClellan
The Knight’s morning timeline.