Students find their passion right off the “bat-on”
Students find their passion through a sport that BHS doesn’t offer-- baton.
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The twirlers grab their batons, standing in the center of an empty studio facing their coaches, ready to perfect their routines they’ve practiced for weeks.
Many of the students within the studio, a group called Saco Jets, come from a variety of schools all over southern Maine to practice in the Saco studio. Two of the students throwing their batons in the air attend Biddeford High School.
Senior April Woodman, starting baton as a six-year-old, throws her baton in the air in a toss-turn-around. A toss-turn-around is when the twirler tosses the baton up high into the air to do a spin – or multiple spins – underneath it.
“My best friend Michaela told me about it and she wanted me to do it with her,” said Woodman. “So, I started and she quit two years later. [But] I stuck with it until now.”
In the beginning of a baton career, the twirlers purchase their own baton – around $30. Once they purchase their baton they’re typically ready to practice. Ever since purchasing her baton, Woodman tries to attend as many practices a week as she can.
“In the winter, it’s usually two days a week because I’m really busy, and it’s cold outside so I can’t practice outside,” said Woodman. “Once it gets warmer, I can practice outside a couple days a week. This year, we’re practicing for a competition in New York in April or March.”
Woodman’s mother, Laurie Woodman, helped her daughter get started on an adventure that she believes helped her grow as not only a twirler — but as a person.
“Her enthusiasm and interest in always participating, going to extra practices [shows her growth],” said Woodman’s mother. “Her friendships [that were] formed at baton. She has friends with common interests from other schools, they get together and they practice baton.”
Woodman agrees with her mother. Bringing a sense of friendship and working hard helped her grow up over the years.
“It’s had such a positive impact on my life,” said Woodman. “I love it. It’s something I’m good at, and there’s a possibility I could do it at the two schools I’m planning on going to [University of Maine at Farmington or University of Maine at Orono].”
While Woodman is one of the two twirlers at Saco Jets, senior Ashley Paul started baton as a four-year-old.
“I think it was a lot of fun when I was younger and then there was a time when I didn’t like it so much,” said Paul. “Now, I love it again. It’s weird.”
Even though baton makes itself as a large part of their world, Woodman and Paul see several misconceptions about baton when they talk about their passion for twirling.
“I think that [people] think it’s just throwing a metal stick in the air,” said Woodman. “It is, but with a lot more. You have dance, some gymnastics – depending on your level, and it’s just a lot harder than people think it is.”
When it comes to the competitions, however, that’s when baton can seem a bit intimidating for the twirlers.
“It doesn’t matter how you did at every competition [when you get to state competitions],” said Woodman. “You never know. At States, you don’t know if you’re going to win. That happened to me last year, I got first all year, then I got second for both championships.”
Woodman’s mother understands the stress that comes with state championships. Watching them come together every year, she sees her daughter work endlessly for the success.
“For the individual part [of States] the twirlers are out in front of five judges,” said Woodman’s mother. “A couple of the judges are from out-of-state, so that part in itself can be very intimidating and nerve-wracking.”
After each season, it leads a lot of the twirlers to reflect on their accomplishments. For Paul, she feels reflecting on her baton seasons that she’s grown as a person.
“I’ve learned more about myself,” said Paul. “I’ve become a little more open to people, out of my shell a little bit. I’m still a little in it, but I’m a little more out of it.”
For Woodman, she feels the person she needs to thank her success at the end of every season is her mother.
said Woodman. “I love her, and I’m thankful for her. She’s at all of my competitions. She’s never missed anything. She’s never missed one recital, or one baton competition. She’s never missed anything.”
Woodman also believes the memories she’s created with her teammates, her coaches, and her baton sisters are what make baton so special to her.
“I love being with my friends and my coaches, they’re literally like family to me,” said Woodman. “I just love going and I look forward to going every week. It’s been such a big part of my life I can’t imagine not having it.”