...I'd like to see a corps start out slow and throughout the season get better and beat corps until the night of finals they win it all!
I don't believe since the inception of DCI this has happened. I guess it came close with Madison in 1976(?).
I dont think we can really compare the current DCI to the past drum corps in this regard.
Back when it was "latin jazz song, stop. Other latin jazz song, stop. Drum solo, stop, latin jazz closer, stop", overcoming large gaps simply with better execution was possible.
In the current incarnation of drum corps, its a lot harder to recover from a bad design or from a design thats not intended to win in the first place. In other words, A corps that knows they are going to place in a certain range stays very self aware, and design a program appropriate for their program, and no matter how well its performed, the criteria alone would keep it from the top of the pack. Or if a design team simply "Sh**s the bed" on their design effort, they can tweak all day and night and make it BETTER, but still not enough to climb from 11th, to 8th, to 5th, to 1st.