Twirling to the top

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For two experienced baton twirlers, the opportunity to compete at the U.S. National Baton Twirling Championships was life-changing.

Not only did the two girls perform in front of thousands of people, but Natalie Miller, 18, and Madelaine Schmidt, 15, took home top honors during the Festival of the Future, part of the championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Miller and Schmidt are both members of the city of Westminster baton-twirling program. They competed against 900 other athletes during the competition July 13-18. Miller took first place in the Intermediate Presentation, an event that combines twirling with dance and gymnastics. Schmidt had a perfect “no-drop” performance, took second place in Beginner Strut and fourth place in Beginner 3-Baton.

Both have been twirling for years, but agree this competition was by far the most exciting and challenging one they’ve been to.

“It was a little intimidating because the competition was held in a huge event center, and I’m used to twirling in a gymnasium,” said Miller, a Standley Lake High School graduate. “I saw so many other good twirlers, I was really nervous before performing, but it was so much fun.”

Schmidt, who will be a freshman at Pomona High School this fall, said her experience was similar to Miller’s as she prepared to perform. But luckily, she said, she has a little secret for calming her nerves.

“Years ago my mom read something that said if you touch three different surfaces it’s supposed to calm you down if you’re nervous,” she said. “So I’ve been doing that since I was 10, and it really does calm me down. Then I just go out and do what I can do.”

Schmidt and Miller both said there is sometimes a stereotype about baton twirling: that it’s easy. But they agree that is definitely not the case and would challenge anyone to throw a baton in the air while spinning and doing tricks without dropping it or being hit in the head.

“Baton twirling might look easy, but it’s not,” Schmidt said. “It can come with pain, bruises and bumps. And it takes a ton or practice and time.”

But through the pain and dedication come a lot of benefits.

“My favorite part is just traveling and meeting so many new people,” Miller said. “I have so many memories and have become close to many of the competitors over the years. Plus competing is just a lot of fun.”

For more information on the city of Westminster baton-twirling program, visit www.ci.westminster.co.us/ParksRec.aspx.