A Local Team Twirls to National Competition

Twirl1An array of local talent will be competing for the championship title at this year’s National Baton Twirling Competition. The event, usually held in various cities throughout the United States, is coming to Stockton this year! Nationals will host several baton-twirlers from around the US, from a variety of age groups, and skill sets.

Twirling fuses talents taken from ice-skating, gymnastics, and different forms of dance, such as ballet. To Dandi Manuel, second-generation twirler, coach and mother, “[Twirling] has evolved into something that is more graceful and beautiful to watch,” she adds, it is much less military-like and now incorporates gymnastics, beautiful body works and dance.

Twirl2Manuel, who has performed alongside the 49er Gold Rush Cheerleaders and Warriors, says that she is happy to see Nationals coming to California. “It will be exciting to have our friends and family able to attend and watch, because it’s often difficult for them to make the out of state competitions,” she says. Her daughter, Cameo Humphrey, 19, who holds an international gold metal championship, will be competing in Monday’s free-style events. Cameo has not only performed and competed since she was one years old, but also helps to coach with her mother. The young twirlers that they mentor are current national championship titleholders in their own age groups, and are also secondgeneration twirlers.

Twirling batons has been a part of Jennifer Sawin’s family since she was young, attending recreational classes in Tracy as a child to competing nationally and attending the University of Arizona on a Baton Twirling scholarship. Now, she is passing the baton to her daughters, Julia, 9 and Emma, 7 who will preform at Nationals, and soon Mia, age 3.

Twirl3Both Julia and Emma are already awardwinning twirlers who travel to compete in several competitions all over Northern California, Arkansas, Ohio and Florida. Since she began competing at the age of 4, Julia has held national championships in all of her events from solo routines with aerial tricks and gymnastics, to multiple baton routines, strut and dance twirl. Emma currently holds second and third place national championship titles in her age group as well. Both Julia and Emma enjoy competitions not only because they love twirling, but because of the friendships that they create. “Having good friends that share their love for twirling makes it fun,” adds Jennifer; “You can find them in the stands playing with their American Girl Dolls with other twirlers.”

Erika Pine, who’s daughter Baylee Pine competes and practices alongside the Sawins, says that twirling offers so much more than tossing a baton and learning technique. Baylee, age 10, is also an award winning twirler. She holds several regional and national awards in her age group since she began competing at five years old after watching a group of twirlers perform at a Manteca 4th of July Parade. Baylee has since performed in many parades, including Disney’s “Twirl Mania” where she and the Sawins danced through Disneyland’s Main Street. Her younger brother, parents and Nana are her biggest fans and travel to national competitions to watch her do what she loves.

Twirl4“She loves competing. She really shines and lights up. And, that confidence really helps her in school,” adds Erika. She describes her daughter as outgoing in class and on stage. “It is neat to see how much more she gets out of [twirling].” When she isn’t at practice, Baylee is always practicing on her own time at home, or even at her brother’s baseball practice and on family vacations. “Put a baton in her hand and she can do anything,” says Erika. Like Baylee, Julia Sawin’s dedication and sportsmanship is also reflected in her schoolwork. “Julia doesn’t like to lose, and it is the same way with her academics,” says

Sawin. However, you’d never be able to tell by her demeanor. Julia is always hugging her competitors and telling them ‘good job’ or ‘good luck.’ When competing, Emma has fun and is silly, “It’s like she doesn’t even know she is competing,” says Jennifer. The girls are all dedicated and practice two days a week for up to seven hours, in addition to dance and tumbling classes. “They are all so passionate and focused,” says coach & mentor Dandi Manuel. The 2014 US National Baton Twirling Championship was just held at the Stockton Arena from July 7-12 2014.

See how our local favorites faired during the event by
visiting the California Baton Council website.

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