“Strictly Business,” Sutherland High School’s show choir, won a championship Wednesday in the Cardinal and Black Show Choir Competition at Harvard Public School.

Sutherland competed in Division 2. The Purple Reign of Deshler High School was the runner up team, and the Rhythamiers of Thayer Central placed third.

Sutherland’s 13 singing dancers started practicing at the beginning of the school year, Choir Director Kelli Flesch said.

“They have been working hard,” she said. “The winter weather has messed us up and we were unable to attend earlier events. In fact, this was our first competitive performance this season.”

Flesch said the show was choreographed by Kari Vyhlidal, who chose a theme of “passions we can’t live without.”

Competing against six other choirs gave the Sailors a chance to see how other schools perform.

“I am hoping as they watched the other teams, they were able to measure where they stand compared to them and, I know by doing so, it will help them raise the bar to the standard they want to reach,” Flesch said.

She said the choir needs to improve before the Southern Platte Valley Association competition.

“So far we have some girls that are really committed and some boys that are coming along, but we are a young group,” she said. “I would love for us to win the SPVA this year, but more importantly I just want the kids to perform and do their best each and every time we take the stage.”

The Hershey Harmony competed against seven schools in Division 1 but did not place in the top three. Chase County’s 9th Street Singers took first. The David City Aquinas Forte was second, and third went to the the Wahoo Bishop Neuman Scarlet Knights.

The Panther’s 11-member choir is directed by first-year music teacher Jadyn Johnson, who has been working hard to boost interest in show choirs.

“I was pleased with the improvements I saw today,” she said. “We continue to get better with each performance.”

Divisions were determined by school enrollment.

Harvard Music Director Blake Thompson organizes and oversees the annual competition.

“This is our sixth year and it’s become very popular. We started the first year with 10 groups and now we are up to 17 and have a waiting list,” Thompson said.

Even though trophies are presented to the top scoring choirs in each division, Thompson said that is not the main thrust of the meet.

“We want everyone to have a positive experience.  This was designed as an event that helps every choir become successful. That is why we divide it up by school size,” he said.

Thompson said the invite is a springboard into serious competition.

“We bring in judges that help get teams ready for conference and district meets.  My only requirement is that the judges have taught music in small school environments. I grew up in a small school and I want the focus to remain on them.”