If you told me at 5 years old twirling baton would shape who I am today, I wouldn’t have believed you. I have been a Feature Twirler of the Redcoat Marching Band for the past four years. Leading the band with flaming batons has been the best part of my journey. This sport, that most people don’t know exists, has taken me across the world to compete, has allowed me to achieve my dreams, and has brought me to the finest school in the land.
I am a very goal oriented person and the great thing about twirling is you are accomplishing small goals almost every day whether it’s catching a new trick or getting through a new routine with minimal mistakes. I loved the self-pride I had when I practiced a trick 500 times and finally was able to do it. There was nothing I loved more than going back to a lesson and showing my coach how much I had improved.
I wanted to become a Miss Majorette of America. This title is equivalent to the best all-around gymnast where there are multiple events that total for one’s final score. It is the ultimate goal.
I am only the 3rd University of Georgia Feature Twirler to have won the title of College Miss Majorette of America. It was such an amazing feeling carrying the 6-foot trophy around Stanford Stadium. There is no greater honor to win the highest title in my sport for the school that I love. So how did I get here?
I grew up in the central hub of the University of Iowa: Iowa City. Being the youngest of four, my life was busy. We were also going from one sibling’s activity to the next. Both my parents have also worked full time but somehow we made it all work.
All my siblings are very hard workers and were very involved so I never knew anything different except for being very busy all the time. Today, my brother Chad is currently in medical school at Des Moines University. Growing up he taught me that no matter how many extracurricular you are in, school will always come first. I started baton twirling, dance, gymnastics, and piano all at the age of 5.
My parents didn’t know what would “stick” so they just decided to give it all a go. Little did we know, I would continue with gymnastics for 10 years making it to level 9, I would dance until my senior year of high school, and my musical background would lead me to play percussion in concert band.
Even with the many activities I was involved in, I genuinely wanted to attend each and every lesson, practice, and competition. I never felt any push from my parents, we were a team and they were going to help me in any way possible. My parents are very calm and humble.
You would think by all that we were involved in they would be over the top but truly our family is as down to earth as it gets. Both of my parents work in the medical field so they are very practical and sensible. If I didn’t win or do my best, they would never make excuses for me, we would just come up with a game plan of how to do better next time.
I have had many coaches who choreographed my routines and showed me new tricks but there’s a lot of time spent in between lessons, mastering the tricks through endless repetition.
So the majority of my practice was spent with my mom watching me. There were certainly times when I didn’t feel like spending day after day with my mom but it forced me to realize that we had to be a team.
With maturity I understood that when we stepped in to the gym my mom was no longer my mom, but my coach. She knew enough from my lessons to be able to help tell me what was good and what wasn’t.
My first coach was a Feature Twirler for a university marching band so my dream to become a Feature Twirler was instilled early. Every Saturday we would go to watch her twirl and I was simply awed. I knew that no matter what happened in the competition side of twirling, if I could get on a football field all that hard work would be worth it.
Whenever the going got tough and I didn’t think I could do it I would be reminded of my goals and how badly I wanted to achieve them.
I have a very competitive nature so I wanted to be the best at everything I was doing. The best twirler, the best gymnast, the best friend, and the best student. I was able to manage it all amazingly well but there were certainly times when I felt I couldn’t do it all. I was also so busy all the time I don’t think I took enough time to give myself room to breathe and to enjoy my accomplishments.
My primary twirling coach lived two hours away so every weekend we would drive two hours for a baton lesson. It was certainly a commitment but it’s just the way it was.
As I got older I started working with coaches outside the state of Iowa in addition to my primary coach. I traveled all around the Midwest to meet up with my coaches to learn new routines. We somehow managed to fit all this in, in between the other sports I participated in.
In high school I ran, all the time. I started cross country preseason in June before my freshman year. We ran every morning. After my track practice, I practiced baton.
During the school year I would twirl at band practice in the morning before school, run with the track team after school until 5:30, then go practice baton, and some nights even go to dance class after all that. Some days went nonstop until 9:30pm. I think it’s safe to say I have mastered time management.
There were probably people who thought I was nuts. My peers didn’t always understand the twirling or understood my goals. But when the Worlds Champions came, they understood my commitment.
My sophomore year of high school I won the Jr. Miss Majorette of America title and received a World Championships medal in Ghent, Belgium. Come senior year many were not surprised when I was announced as the new Feature Twirler for the University of Georgia.
I feel a great amount of pride for UGA and I believe it is the best school in the nation. In my college search process, visiting other campuses made me realize that there was something special at UGA that was unmatched.
The deep set tradition of the Redcoat and Bulldog nation was something that I wanted to be a part of to leave my mark and legacy. Georgia’s program is the best. We perform the highest level of difficulty of any school in the nation.
I wanted to be THE feature Twirler for the University of Georgia. A feature twirler is typically the face of the band.
Usually feature twirlers lead the marching on the field or any public appearances. A feature twirler is a solo performer who is responsible for his or her own choreography.
At the University of Georgia the Feature Twirler is known for twirling Fire Batons at the end of the halftime performances.The feature twirlers perform a high level or risk through difficulty and can usually be recognized by a separate uniform. As a Feature Twirler I practiced outside of band practice.
All four years that I have been at Georgia I have competed to represent UGA and the Redcoat Band. I have won hundreds of awards and titles during my time at Georgia including the 2012 Women’s Collegiate Championship, the 2013 Twirlmania Collegiate Classic Champion and 2014 College Miss Majorette of America.
Being a National Champion. It’s a moment when you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s not a dream. I had had so many dreams of them announcing my name as the winner but when it actually happened it was so surreal.
A lifelong dedication to competitions was all worth it when I was able to accomplish the goal I had set when I was 5 years old. Matched with representing the University of Georgia I would not have imagined a more picture perfect conclusion to my twirling career.
I currently have a few students I am teaching baton too. It is such a great feeling to be able to help someone else achieve their goals. Baton has been such a positive part of my life and I want to share that with all of my students.
I find a lot of joy in seeing them catch a new trick and receive a 1st place ribbon. I hope that with every student, whether or not they continue baton in the long term that I can have a small impact on their life.
Today, it still amazes me all the goals I set and was able to achieve.
When you start at the beginning of any journey dreams seem far off and out of reach. But the fact is you can’t climb a mountain in one day. I set one small goal after another. Overall, there is no magic recipe that got me to the level I am today. It was simply hard work and hours in the gym.
I got bruises; I hit my head, but what I found to be most true is that when I put in the hard work it would all fall into place at the competitions or on the field. Matched with hard work it takes mental toughness. If you doubt yourself or become intimidated by others you cannot be mentally tough.
Some of my competitors have become some of my best friends but I learned that for me to perform my best I cannot not let their abilities lessen my own. For I have realized that I cannot control how they perform. I can only control myself.
The moral to my story is commitment. It took a lot to get to where I got but I would not change any part of my journey. Wherever life takes you, jump in headfirst and never look back. Your hard work will carry you to the top.