Performance — The Vanguard share the title with Delphian School after both teams finished with 277 points, third place 276 points

After a one-year hiatus, the Veritas School choir finds itself back at the top after tying for first with Delphian School at the OSAA 2A/1A state choir championships Thursday at George Fox University’s Baumann Auditorium.

The Vanguard claimed back-to-back state titles in 2011 and 2012 before finishing second to North Clackamas Christian a year ago.

Both Veritas and Delphian totaled 277 points by the judges, but won only by the skin of their teeth, as Portland Christian received the top score of 281 from the judges but was penalized for a time violation, dropping its total to 276 to finish third.

The victory was especially sweet for the senior class, including second-year singer Elisah Winikka.

“The best thing for me was that since I joined last year, I was never in the choir when we won the other two times,” Winikka said. “This was my absolute last chance to be in the choir when we won. That was something I was really hoping for.”

Several members of the choir said that it struggled in the sight-reading portion of the competition, at least compared to how it has performed in recent years.

That led to some more doubt and apprehension, with Winikka even saying she kept her expectations down, both to avoid disappointment if they lost and boost excitement in the case they did pull it out.

One of the challenges the choir faced this year was an influx of new members, including a large freshman class and several upperclassmen that came out for the first time, which swelled the group’s size to more than 40.

In addition to attending two very helpful workshops, which the choir didn’t do during its performance tour at small schools in Eastern Oregon before last year’s state competition, section leaders like Kyle Hansen (tenor), Erin Primrose and Winikka (both soprano) credited their April trip to Seattle for bringing the team together.

“I think the great thing about that was that we got to spend a lot of time with people outside of our classes,” Hansen said. “That really helped solidify any relationships and helped us work together more easily.”

Seniors Brian Hillenbrand and Josepha Natzke credited director Sally Mehler for picking a set list that not only showed a variety of techniques, but one that also changed mood with each song. Of the five songs performed, two were in Latin and one each in Polish, Ukrainian and Indian.

“What I like most about our choir, first, is that Mrs. Mehler is always willing to learn herself,” Natzke said. “A lot the time when we’re being adjudicated, the director will talk to her about her technique and she works really hard to learn. She puts as much as all the students put in.”

The seniors also expressed pride in getting Veritas back to the top in their final year with the choir, but also noted that the necessary shift in leadership needed to keep the program at a high level has already begun.

“As we were coming to the end of the year, a lot of the seniors have been preoccupied with a lot of stuff going on,” Hillenbrand said. “From the last few practices, the juniors are really taking the reins now. It’s really great to see them stepping up to the plate and helping each other out.”

The choir will perform once more this season when it takes the stage for the school-wide spring concert on Monday.

Under the direction of second-year choir teacher Robert Hawthorne, the Newberg High School choir also competed at the event, performing Saturday during the 6A competition. It was the Tigers’ first appearance at state in Hawthorne’s tenure.

South Salem won the 6A competition, besting runners-up Canby and Sprague. Other winners at the three-day event were Rex Putnam in 5A, Central (Independence) in 4A, and Westside Christian in 3A.

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