The Saline Twirlettes, winners of 13 national titles, take pride in their sport
Before that, Haley Williams strutted her twirling talents at the Little Caesar Bowl at Ford Field for Western Michigan University.
All five twirlers are part of the nationally known Saline Twirlettes, which has logged 13 national baton twirling championships with its competition team.
The team has won multiple national championships, including the 2011 Junior Grand National Halftime Championship through the National Baton Twirling Association, one of several baton twirling organizations.
Some twirlers start as young as 4 years old, said coach Susan Usher.
The coach herself began twirling at that tender age. “My mom said I saw twirlers in a parade and wanted to try it.” Usher said.
The youngest twirlers learn basic skills kicks and twirls, then they're trained in marching, coordination, self-confidence and poise, Usher said.
“It takes a good full year to work through some tricks,” she said.
Courtesy photo for AnnArbor.com | Saline Twirlettes
The Saline Twirlettes have performed before 40,000 people annually at various community events, such as the Ann Arbor Jaycees July 4 parade, Saline parades, and the Chelsea Community Fair parade.
“We believe in giving back,” Usher said. “We compete as The Saline Twirlettes and people know us by that name.” About 1,900 young people have participated in in the organization's classes and on its competition team, according to the group’s website.
When Natalie Haubenstricker was a little girl, she picked up something similar to a baton and began spinning it around. Her mom decided she should try twirling and at age 4, she, too, got her start.
“I twirl because it's an exciting, fun, and very active sport,” Haubenstriker said. “I've participated in this sport since I was 4, and wish that I could continue with it forever.”
Some twirlers continue through college.
Usher works with about 40 students a year and has been teaching for about 17 years. Why has she stuck with it so long? “I think it’s the relationships I make with the parents and the students.”
Haubenstriker, now 14, said said Baton twirling has become her life. "I've never really wanted to do anything else," she said. "I think my senior year in high school will be the hardest, because it means I'm eventually going to have to say goodbye to twirling.
“I consider the girls I twirl with family, and I consider my coach ... a mentor, and a person I look up to. She's done an excellent job making all of us a team, and I don't ever want to have to give that up. We are very blessed to have her as a coach.”
Amanda Coy, 11, a Saline sixth-grader said she keeps twirling because it’s fun and she’s made great friendships through the sport.
“This team isn’t just a team, it’s like a family,” she said. “It is a great support system We practiced so hard all summer ... and represented our Saline community very well.”
Dana Kalem, 16, a junior at Saline High School said twirling has been an amazing experience for her.
“Being on a team is something I can never take for granted just because it is so rare to find one as amazing as the Twirlettes," she said. "Winning the halftime title was such an indescribable feeling and it makes me so happy to know that we can accomplish so much.”
Classes are offered in both Saline in gyms at Woodland Meadows and n Grass Lake. Usher currently teaches students from Saline, Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Ypsilanti, Milan, Monroe, Tecumseh, Britton, Belleville, Birch Run, Grass Lake, Adrian, Ohio and Virginia.
The recreational program focuses on baton twirling as an activity, providing opportunities to participate in local parades ad recitals and all of the Saline Twirlettes participate at this level. For more information, click here.
Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page.