Ottawa High School music students were in a celebratory mood Saturday.
After clinching the program's 22nd IHSA state music title, the student bus returned from competition in Princeton in style.
"We got an escort back into town with the fire department leading the way," said band director Andrew Jacobi, noting choir director Spencer Rockford's parents arranged it. "We haven't had one in recent memory, so it was a cool moment."
Ottawa scored the maximum 300 points in the second portion of the state competition, the organization contest, to register a combined score of 1,035.
The program had taken a 42-point lead ahead of last year's champion Bradley-Bourbonnais in the first portion, the solo and ensemble contest — the most variable part of the state competition — in March.
Students knew heading into Saturday, if they scored the maximum points allowed, they would win the Class AA title for the 21st time in 22 years. They had to wait until after the last event to be sure of it, Jacobi said.
"The kids were excited and happy," he said of the moment. "There was a sense of accomplishment. (Saturday) they handled it all with class. They were prepared and performed well. The real competition is ourselves with the music. We really pulled off the music well and played to the best of our abilities."
Jacobi said the community support for the music program is second to none.
"I'm really proud of the kids and their hard work and dedication," he said. "It's a team effort between the band and choirs, and everyone involved."
Streator finishes in Top 20 in Class A
The Streator High School music program placed 19th overall in the Class A competition with 316.5 points. In the solo and ensemble contest in March, the program registered 10th place for the band category.