2016 Grand National Championships

View full finals recap here.

1. (97.45) Carmel, IN
2. (97.45) Avon, IN
3. (96.55) William Mason, OH
4. (95.70) Tarpon Springs, FL
5. (95.30) Cedar Park, TX
6. (94.65) Leander, TX
7. (91.85) Ronald Reagan, TX
8. (91.50) Wando, SC
9. (91.30) Claudia T. Johnson, TX
10. (91.05) Castle, IN
11. (91.00) Homestead, IN
12. (90.05) Marian Catholic, IL
13. (89.45) Dobyns-Bennett, TN

Music: Avon, IN
Visual: Avon, IN
GE: Carmel, IN
View full semifinals recap here.

Class A
1. Adair County, KY
2. Williamstown, KY
3. Archbishop Alter, OH

Music: Adair County, KY
Visual: Adair County, KY
GE: Adair County, KY

Class AA
1. Tarpon Springs, FL
2. Marian Catholic, IL
3. North Hardin, KY

Music: Tarpon Springs, FL
Visual: Tarpon Springs, FL
GE: Tarpon Springs, FL

Class AAA
1. Leander, TX
2. Cedar Park, TX
3. Castle, IN

Music: Leander, TX
Visual: Leander, TX
GE: (tie) Cedar Park, TX
and Leander, TX

Class AAAA
1. Avon, IN
2. Carmel, IN
3. William Mason, OH

Music: Avon, IN
Visual: William Mason, OH
GE: Avon, IN
View full prelims 1 recap here.
View full prelims 2 recap here.
View full combined prelims recap here.
Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia.
The 2016 Grand National Championships were held Nov. 9–12 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Carmel was named national champion, breaking a tie with Avon because of their higher general effect score.

When Carmel was announced as winning the general effect score, crowds at Lucas Oil gasped. For those paying attention, that meant a close finish between Avon and Carmel. For those who are extremely nerdy like us, they knew that meant Carmel was national champion. Why? Chuck had read the tie disclaimer, which he only reads when there is in fact a tie. After announcing the scores for 13th through third places, there had been no tied scores. Therefore, the tie must have been for first. And since ties are broken by higher GE score, Carmel must be the winner.

We could argue that maybe the tiebreaker should be something else — after all, GE already accounts for 60% of the total score — but, that's a conversation for another day.

The Avon-Carmel tie in finals wasn't the only tie seen that day. In semifinals, Carmel, Tarpon Springs, and William Mason we're part of a three-way tie for second place. If that doesn't show you how close this competition was, nothing can.

Following the top contenders was a squad of Texas groups: Cedar Park, Leander, Ronald Reagan, and Claudia Taylor Johnson. In semifinals, they managed to grab spots five through eight, but in finals, Wando was able to peel off one Texas group, pushing CTJ back to ninth.

Of course, it wouldn't be a national finals without Marian Catholic. The group finished in twelfth place, normally the last spot in finals. However, a tie for twelfth place in semifinals between Dobyns-Bennett and Homestead resulted in thirteen finalists, for the first time ever.

Those thirteen included two new finalists: Castle and Dobyns-Bennett. Castle brought the total number of Indiana finalists in one year to four, proving the state can be just as dominant as Texas. DB is the first Tennessee group to make finals in almost 20 years. The last was McGavock in 1997.

Grand Nationals Guide

Download a printable version of our guide. It includes full schedules, analysis, and an interactive predictions element.

Whether you’re attending Grand Nationals in person or streaming the competition on FloMarching, this year will be insane from start to finish. The number of Texas groups attending is extremely exciting and is consequently turning this year’s competition into the toughest in recent history. The finals bubble is enormous with almost all of our predicted semifinalists being discussed as possible finalists. Even though all eyes will be on the semifinals awards ceremony on Saturday afternoon, that shouldn’t distract you from watching what happens on Friday night. The number of potential semifinalists is growing, too. In addition to the many consistent semifinalists, there are multiple up-and-coming groups across the nation that are making the trip to Indianapolis this year.

Thursday Prelims (50 bands)
The first day of preliminary competition features bands from all over the country, but specifically quite a few local Indiana bands.

Block 1 (8:30 – 11:45; 13 bands)
Be sure to grab your coffee and get to Lucas Oil for this first block. Yes, it’s early, but you don’t want to miss Clovis West, a big name in California. Clovis West won the San Jose regional, sweeping class AAA. They earned another class medal at Long Beach, but this time they finished 4th, just tenths behind several groups that have placed in the top 20 at Grand Nationals.

They are immediately followed by Dobyns-Bennett, the Winston-Salem four-time champion and 2016 Atlanta music caption and class AAA champion. DB acquired some new design staff members who are really nailing it this year. Their show, “Echoes of Hope,” certainly has the feel of our favorite 2015 national champion.

Dobyns-Bennett (TN) performs at the Atlanta Super
Regional on Oct. 29, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten

Clovis West and Dobyns-Bennett are two of the many bands in this year’s finals bubble. If Dobyns-Bennett isn’t in the top 12, they shouldn’t be further out than 15th. They’re just really good this year, and we believe that their momentum from Atlanta could carry them to a strong finish in semifinals.

North Hardin and Lafayette will likely be in semifinals, as both have appeared in multiple regional or super regional finals.

Block 2 (12:30 – 3:30; 12 bands)
The competition continues with another dense block. This block is loaded with finalist bands and plenty of groups that we think will get a semifinals performance.

The first major name to perform at Grand Nationals is William Mason at 1:30 p.m. Mason placed 4th, the program’s highest ranking ever, at Grand Nats last year. We have no doubt that they will continue to impress and easily secure a finalist spot.

Directly after them is Franklin. Franklin missed finals in 2015 by one placement. They were 7th at Atlanta three weeks ago. While that may sound scary, this group tends to clean up quickly once they get their entire program on the field. We fully expect Franklin to be just as close to a finals performance this year, if they aren’t awarded one of the top 12 spots. Their program, “Mastermind” is a playful adventure of an inventor and his robots.

Franklin (TN) performs at the Atlanta Super Regional
on Oct. 29, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten

Fort Mill follows next. Fort Mill has had a consistent season and you can expect to see them again Saturday morning, probably.

Union will conclude these four back-to-back, can’t miss performances. The group is returning to Grand Nationals after a year off and recently placed 5th behind the up-and-coming Bellevue West in St. Louis a month ago. With so many incredible groups competing, we are not sure if this former national finalist will be able to lock down a spot this year, but they certainly are in the running.

Cape Fear performs yet another steampunk theme in 2016, thank you, Carolina Crown. However, this show is well designed and has carried Cape Fear into finals at the Winston-Salem regional earlier this season.

This monstrous block is completed by local competitor Homestead. Homestead grabbed the last finalist spot in 2015, but 2016 seems to mark a turn in show design for this traditional program. Their show is an homage to someone dear to their band. It features “a time to grieve” and “a time to dance,” which overall seems to be tugging on the heartstrings of audiences all season. While they are not a finalist lock this year, it’s still an impressive program, that will certainly be in the running for a finals position.

Block 3 (4:00 – 7:00; 12 bands)
This block is definitely the least competitive of the day, but you’ll want to hang around to see Castle step off at 4:00 p.m. Their show features “Wine Dark Sea” by John Mackey and another new take on sirens. This program includes a talented vocalist and multiple instrumental soloists. These kids can PLAY. Be sure to pay attention to their phenomenal tuba section.

Castle (IN) performs at the Clarksville Regional
on Sept. 24, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten

The rest of the block consists of a few regional finalist groups such as Boiling Springs and Central Hardin, two groups that might be able to earn a spot in semifinals, but it won’t be easy.

This block wraps up with 2013 class A Champion Bellbrook. After an increase in enrollment, Bellbrook now competes in class AA. As a class AA band, they won’t have as easy of a time earning a semifinals spot based on class representation.

Block 4 (7:45 – 11:00; 13 bands)
If you missed Indiana state finals or Indianapolis Super Regional, don’t worry. You’re going to see almost an entire replay on Thursday night. This block has everyone — Ben Davis, Avon, Center Grove, Carmel, Lawrence Township — competing for those highly sought after eleven spots on Thursday. Avon and Carmel have flip-flopped placements throughout the season, and they will likely continue to push each other until the end of finals.

James F. Byrnes (SC) performs at the Atlanta Super
Regional on Oct. 29, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten

If you forgot that South Carolina bred some strong programs, let James F. Byrnes remind you with a little break from Indiana band at 9:30 pm. Byrnes has improved exponentially over the past few years. They were runner up to Dobyns-Bennett at Winston-Salem earlier this season by three points and later only five points and five places below DB in Atlanta. Their show, “Dark Horse” is truly captivating, and these kids know how perform their show. We hope to see them earn another show on Saturday morning.

Reigning class A National Champion Adair County performs at 10:00 p.m. and should have no trouble earning a class representation spot in semifinals. Although they did earn a spot based on score last year, this year’s field of competitors will make that a much tougher task.

Another school trying to earn a class rep position in semifinals, Bassett will perform at 10:15. They’ll be competing with fellow class AA school Reeths-Puffer, which performs at 9:00 p.m., to try to earn a chance to perform on Saturday morning.

Friday Prelims (50 bands)
The second day of prelims features all six Texas bands, but the groups that make up #TeamTexas aren’t the only groups that you’ll want to make sure you catch.

Block 1 (7:00 – 10:15; 13 bands)
If you slept in on Thursday, you would really regret doing it again on Friday morning. This block kicks off at the all-too-early hour of 7:00 am. However, this block is packed with former finalist groups.

Starting us off is Owasso, the bronze medalist at St. Louis, right behind two 2015 national finalists. We’re not sold on Owasso as a finalist but come and judge for yourself.

Bellevue West (NE) performs at the St. Louis Super
Regional on Oct. 22, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten
Another band to mention is Bellevue West, which earned 4th at St. Louis. We’re not sure when the last time a band from Nebraska was turning this many heads, and they’re inspiring show about the Titanic might even make your eyes water up. They should certainly earn a spot in semifinals.

James Bowie and Cedar Park compete back to back because they had to make this competition that much more insane. Bowie won the first regional of the season, McAllen, with ease. The fact that they were in the top half of Plano, arguably the most competitive regional of the season, says a lot. Cedar Park finished 4th at Austin in the early season, and 9th at San Antonio this past weekend, just behind Ronald Reagan.

The block winds down with legendary Texas group Ronald Reagan. While we had entertained the idea of the eagle returning to Texas, it won’t be with this group after Reagan placed 8th in San Antonio. However, we do expect to see three strong performances from this group.

Following Reagan is Bentonville. They were off to a strong start in October, even beating Union in GE at the Golden Regiment Invitational, but St. Louis struck a hard blow to this group’s finalist ambitions when they did not advance to finals. We’re sure they’ve been hard at work since then and will bring their A game to Indy, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s enough.

Block 2 (10:45 – 1:45; 12 bands)
Tarpon Springs (FL) performs at the Atlanta Super
Regional on Oct. 29, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten
If you overslept and are just now getting to the stadium, at least you didn’t miss Tarpon Springs. The 2014 National Champion Tarpon Springs presents “Pandora’s Box,” which should really be called “Pandora's Boxes” because in typical Tarpon fashion, there isn’t just one prop on the field. Their use of props is unmatched by any group competing at Grand Nationals. Spectacular as always, expect to see Tarpon in the top five on Saturday night.

Leander was able to make the haul from Texas to perform at Grand Nationals for the first time since 1999. This Texas powerhouse will easily land a finalist spot. So far in 2016, Leander has been named class champion at the Austin regional, winning the prelims competition, and finished 3rd at San Antonio.

Ayala, a 2013 finalist is back! Based on Long Beach results, we aren’t sold on the idea that a runner-up will guarantee them a spot in finals, but they are certainly one to watch out for.

The next finalist to perform is Claudia Taylor Johnson. CTJ presents their extremely fun show, “Flashdance”. They have had some luck with this show at Austin, placing 3rd; Conroe, placing 2nd; and San Antonio, placing 4th. CTJ hasn’t had an outstanding record, however, they will be seated comfortably among the pack of finalists.

Some other groups to pay attention to are Centerville and Jenks. Both of these programs have made semi-finals appearances and, for Centerville, even a few finals performances. At Indy Super, Centerville claimed 6th, right between two great programs, Castle and Blue Springs. While Indy finals results were a little funkier than what we expected, we aren’t totally discounting Centerville’s ability to place in the top 20 this weekend.

Block 3 (2:30 – 5:30; 12 bands)
This block could be considered the, “Semi-finalist Showdown”. While no one in this block is predicted to be in finals, they all boast strong resumes.

O'Fallon Township (IL) performs at the St. Louis Super
Regional on Oct. 22, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten
Plymouth-Canton is a former Grand National champion that continues to compete with the best bands in the nation. They earned 2nd place in Toledo about 5.5 points behind Mason.

Panther Creek is definitely in the running for a semifinals spot, but it won’t come easy. They placed 3rd at Winston-Salem behind Dobyns-Bennett and James F. Byrnes, but this program hasn’t yet shown they have what it takes to perfect a show all the way to the end of the season.

O’Fallon Township received 6th place at the St. Louis Super Regional earlier this year, right behind former national finalist Union. Despite it being about the boring, monotonous task of putting together a puzzle, their show is actually quite exciting.

Block 4 (6:15 – 9:30; 13 bands)
We start off with what some call the over-hyped, but unquestionably legendary Marian Catholic. Their show is strange. Well executed, but strange. While you might not quite get it, the judges certainly will. They didn’t have the strongest start to their competitive season, placing behind groups like O'Fallon Township, but they appeared to redeem their name as they typically do, finishing 4th overall at Indy last weekend.

We’re eager to see Long Beach champion, Vista Murrieta, perform among the best bands in the country. Their win was a bit of a surprise a few weeks ago and we’re curious to see just how far they’ll get at Grand Nationals. We’re not entirely sure they’ll lock down a finalist spot but we think they’ll get pretty dang close.

Nation Ford, the over-hyped Jacksonville champion, follows right after. While they did beat Kennesaw, formerly a national powerhouse, it doesn’t say much for 2016. If you look at Winston-Salem results from a few weeks later, you’ll see that Nation Ford struggled to stay in the top half. We think they certainly have a chance of being awarded a semifinals performance but not much more.

Wando (SC) performs at the Atlanta Super Regional
on Oct. 29, 2016. // Photo by Jeremiah Wooten
Wando. What do we know about Wando? Well we’ll admit we were skeptical of how they’d perform this year after such an off year in 2015. Between massive coastal flooding and school closings in the middle of their competitive season last fall, it’s understandable that any program would struggle. We’re excited to see them bounce back so soon. Atlanta was a very interesting round of performances. Wando was able to snag the award for best visual performance from Tarpon. That speaks very strongly for Wando, which followed Tarpon by one placement and barely over a point. Wando is definitely on our radar for a finals position. You won’t want to miss their show, “Therefore,” featuring music from Jay Bocook.

After Wando, you won’t be seeing anymore finalists or finalists bubble bands for that matter, but there might be a few groups in contention for a second performance on Saturday morning. Pay attention to Williamstown, which could be earning a class A representation spot in semifinals.

Predictions Disclaimer
We say it every week, but this competition really is crazy. While we've only picked one champion, we really think that Avon, Leander, Tarpon Springs, and William Mason all have a pretty equal chance of winning.

Also, Castle, Dobyns-Bennett, Owasso, Union, and Vista Murrieta could steal a finals position from just about any of our predicted finalists with good run in semifinals.

Even at the semifinals cut level, there are so many groups like Ben Davis, Bentonville, Central Hardin, Columbus North, Green Hope, Jenks, Miamisburg, Nation Ford, and Panther Creek that on any other year would be solidly in semifinals.

There will be many great bands that don't hear their names called on Friday night, and even more great bands that don't hear their name called on Saturday afternoon.

Thursday Top 11 (alphabetical):
Avon, IN
Carmel, IN
Castle, IN
Center Grove, IN
Clovis West, CA
Dobyns-Bennett, TN
Franklin, TN
Homestead, IN
North Hardin, KY
Union, OK
William Mason, OH

Friday Top 11 (alphabetical):
Ayala, CA
Cedar Park, TX
Claudia Taylor Johnson, TX
James Bowie, TX
Leander, TX
Marian Catholic, IL
Owasso, OK
Ronald Reagan, TX
Tarpon Springs, FL
Vista Murrieta, CA
Wando, SC

Next 8 (alphabetical):
Bellevue West, NE
Centerville, OH
Fort Mill, SC
James F. Byrnes, SC
Lafayette, LA
Lawrence Township, IN
O'Fallon Township, IL
Plymouth-Canton E.P., MI

Class A reps:
Adair County, KY
Archbishop Alter, OH
Licking Valley, OH
Williamstown, KY

Class AA rep:
Reeths-Puffer, MI

1. Avon, IN
2. Leander, TX
3. Tarpon Springs, FL
4. William Mason, OH
5. Claudia Taylor Johnson, TX
6. Carmel, IN
7. Cedar Park, TX
8. Wando, SC
9. Ronald Reagan, TX
10. Homestead, IN
11. James Bowie, TX
12. Marian Catholic, IL

Music: Leander, TX
Visual: William Mason, OH
GE: Avon, IN

Adjudication Panel
Music: George Boulden, David Carbone, Levi Chavis, Chip Crotts, Wayne Dillon, Nola Jones, Jay Kennedy, David McGrath, John Phillips, Ken Turner, Daniel Wood, and Todd R. Zimbelman.
Visual: Lee Carlson, Ken Giese, John Howell, Kyle Miller, Adam Sage, Robert Solomon, Michael Stone, Jim Sturgeon, and Michael Turner.
Chief: Gary Markham.