Photo courtesy of Alex Ottoboni
The three feature twirlers (from left: Emily McCrone, Jessica Massie and Kayleigh Spencer) before the Boise State game. The twirlers will head to Missouri in the spring to compete in college nationals.
By Akyia Westley
Special to The Collegian
During every halftime show at Bulldog Stadium, three special guests called “feature twirlers” dance and throw their batons into the air; demonstrating eye-catching tricks that go along with the sounds of the Fresno State Marching Band.
Jessica Massie, Kayleigh Spencer and Emily McCrone are the students who get to show off their skills to crowds of up to 40,000 people at each home game.
Although Massie said the young women have the option of performing solo routines on the field they rarely do.
“Just because we can do things on our own doesn’t mean we always want to,” said Massie.
The twirlers said performance preparations require up to six hours of practice with the band each week, an additional three hours of practice on game days and any other time the women choose to dedicate to the sport.
Much like a competitive gymnast or dancer, the twirlers said they have to be trained not only to perfect difficult tricks, but to demonstrate proper bodywork.
In addition to performing with the band on the football field and at some home basketball games, the twirlers said they compete at national championships.
The trio plans to travel to Missouri this upcoming spring semester and compete against hundreds of other twirlers in the High School and College National Championships, although Massie said sometimes there are difficulties.
“Baton twirling is a difficult sport physically and monetarily,” said Massie.
She said costumes, batons, lessons and competition fees for one performance can cost more than $1,000.
Like any other sport, injuries are not uncommon. Massie said she has a permanently sprained right ankle, a hyper-extended medial collateral ligament in her left knee and a torn hamstring in her right leg due to her intense involvement year-round.
The United States Twirling Association said competitive twirling teaches people of all ages how to deal with pressure and appreciate the rewards of determination and dedication.
“It is such a fun sport that supports physical fitness, teamwork and a competitive but friendly nature,” said Emily McCrone.
Some members of the Fresno State band said they appreciate the company of the baton twirlers during practice and performances.
“I think having the girls around makes the experience really awesome because without the twirlers, it wouldn’t be as interesting,” said Travis Woshlstadeter, a second-year bass trombone player. He said one of his favorite moments in practice was when the twirlers were practicing with their batons lit on fire.
“Many college bands do not have twirlers, so it makes ours a little more interesting,” he said.
Michelle Peres, a former member of the marching band, was also intrigued by the presence and performances of the twirlers.
“The more, the merrier!” she said.
Peres said she believes the girls are the face of the band, because they are the ones who put on the big smiles for the crowd. Since the two groups get to practice and interact with each other often, Peres said she gets to see the twirlers form a close bond with each other throughout the year.
“It’s really cool that the bonding they do turns them into best friends each year,” she said.
Massie said baton twirling is a special experience, and one she agrees all would love.
“As a twirler, if you meet any other twirler you have a lasting bond with them,” Massie said. “If you seriously want to try the sport of baton twirling, look for the three sparkliest uniforms on the football field during halftime and come and talk to us!
“We’d love to have more Twirling Bulldogs!”