The Pace High Band won first place for 5A class schools at the Florida Marching Band Championships Saturday at the Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg, FL. The band received the highest overall score out of all 25 finalists.

Bands from all across Florida competed in semi-finals and final competitions. In semi-finals, the Pace High Band earned trophies for having the highest scores in visual, general effect, and music captions.

Then it was the first time the band advanced to finals in Pace High School history. The band was first to perform in the finals—an unlucky draw—but still managed to edge out the competition by earning the highest overall score of 92.38.

“It was a very emotional experience for everyone,” said Anthony Denaro, the Pace High School band director. “Some kids were screaming, some were crying, and many were doing both.”

The band has worked on the show since June, Denaro explained. Many of his students have made personal sacrifices to make rehearsals, and felt invested in the program.

“The moment of being crowned 5A Class Grand Champion will be a moment that each one of them will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Denaro.

It’s meaningful to Denaro, too, to see his students work together to perfect a final product and reach success. The band is a family, he says.

“It means absolutely everything to me!” he said. “They met—and far exceeded—our goals for this year, and I could not be any more proud of each one of them.”