Who is Baton Girl?
Leah Mayer, baton twirler and national champion, is the first to twirl alongside the Rocklin High School marching band.
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Seven years ago, Leah Mayer went to her first baton twirling class. She learned some basics but she had no idea that she would become a national champion seven years later.
Leah, a freshman and the first Rocklin High School twirler, has been twirling since she was seven years old. Previously, she had been involved in dance and gymnastics. At school, she received an informational flier on baton twirling and decided to try it out.
Baton twirling is the art of manipulating a baton while performing a coordinated routine. It involves dancing and gymnastic like skills that are all involved within the routine.
Leah was recognized by the Rocklin High band teacher, Mr. Tom Douglass while performing at a Patriot Day event last September. After hearing that Leah would be a freshman this year, Douglass asked if she would want to perform with the marching band. Leah took the opportunity and now practices alongside the band.
Her debut as the Rocklin High School feature twirler was at the Quarry Bowl.
“It was so scary but so much fun,” Leah says. “When we marched on the field my vision went blank and I just went in the zone.”
Besides dropping her baton, Leah was most afraid of judgement from her peers. She has been judged in the past for being apart of a sport in which “you just throw a metal stick in the air.” Most people are also unfamiliar with the sport which added to her apprehension.
The reaction to her debut, however, wiped away her doubts.
“The performance was so much fun, but it was even better after when everyone kept asking me who I was and was telling me how amazing I did,” she says.
Leah was also encouraged by the huge reaction to her performance on social media. Students on Twitter praised her for her talent and nicknamed her “Baton Girl.”
After her debut, Leah performed at the Del Oro game and is scheduled to perform one last time before the season ends. She also hopes to perform at a rally at some point during the school year.
Besides her success at Rocklin High, Leah earned a national title this past June. She has performed in competitions since she was in third grade.
Although she started competing in third grade, Leah did not really get into competitions until she was in fourth grade. In fourth grade, she performed her first solo. She wanted to get into competitions because she loved all the costumes as well as performing.
Baton twirling competitions are split into categories that the twirler can compete in similarly to dance. Some of these categories include team, strut, dance twirl and freestyle. All twirlers perform the same routine to the same music in every category but freestyle. In freestyle, the twirler chooses their own music and coordinates their own routine.
This competition season, Leah and her team trained everyday in the summer for eight hours which later paid off in the opportunity for them to compete in a national competition in Mobile, Alabama.
For baton twirlers, competition season begins in November and ends in April. Most of these competitions are located in the Bay Area, as well as Sacramento and Lincoln. After their local competitions, Leah and her team competed in States. Most of California comes to this competition which is located in Brentwood, California.
In June, Leah competed in Regionals which was also located in Brentwood. For this competition, twirlers from all over the west coast come to compete to qualify for Nationals.
Leah’s coach bumped her up two levels so she competed at the AAA level. This is the second highest level out of the five levels in which a twirler can compete in. In order to qualify to go to Nationals in this division, she had to score a minimum of 35 points.
“I had a 102 degree fever the night before I competed, so I was freaking out,” says Leah about her experience at Regionals. Despite the challenge, she managed to qualify in her freestyle routine. Her team also qualified to go to Nationals with their group routine.
Nationals was located at Mobile, Alabama in July for a week. On the first day of competition, Leah performed her freestyle routine as well as with her team.
“I got dead last in freestyle and I was the only one to drop my baton during team,” says Leah. She felt like she had let down her team and said, “I knew I had to step up my game.”
The second day of competitions was to qualify for the International Cup located in Croatia. Leah had to place at least 6th out of 34 girls to go to Croatia. “No one thought I was going to qualify for Croatia because it was my first time ever competing in freestyle and I had skipped three levels of it,” she said.
Despite all doubts, Leah placed 4th overall and will compete in Croatia in August of 2017. Her whole team narrowly missed the qualifications by placing 7th in their group routine. Leah is one out of the two girls on her team that will twirl in Croatia next summer.
Besides qualifying to compete in Croatia, Leah also placed first in her age division for strut to earn the title of National Strut Champion. Strut is similar to a lyrical routine in dance and is performed to an instrumental. She also placed third in dance twirl and on her solo.
“The three things I love most about baton are performing, its uniqueness and the team environment. My team and I are like a baton family,” she says.
After high school, Leah has plans to keep twirling, and hopes that she can receive a scholarship doing what she loves most. On October 28th, Leah will be performing at the halftime performance with band, for the last Rocklin High School home game of the year.