By MIKE CHAIKEN
This past summer, Jaymie Bianca, a 15-year-old from Bristol, pitted herself against the best baton twirlers of the nation and walked away with several medals—including two gold that proved her skills rank among the best in the nation.
Jaymie, who attends St. Paul Catholic High School, received two gold medals, three silver medals, and one bronze at the AAU Junior Olympics for baton twirling, which was held from July 27 to 30 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Jaymie competed in the 13 to 15 age group competing in events such as one baton, two baton, dance twirl, basic and military march, X-Strut, flag, and hoop.
“I feel that I lived up to the expectations set forth by myself, and that is more than I could ever ask for,” said Jaymie of her medal count. “I poured my heart and soul on the competition floor, and I believe the judges sensed this as well. On every one of my score sheets, I received comments such as ‘I can tell you love baton twirling” or ‘I love how you are enjoying yourself.’ Knowing that the judges sensed my passion for baton twirling was a wonderful feeling.”
“My goal for every competition is never to simply win trophies and medals, but bring jubilance to those who are watching me. I want people to experience the joy I feel when I’m twirling, and take them on a journey through the magical world of baton,” said Jaymie.
Most competitors for the event arrive in Iowa after having placed in the top 10 of a regional competition, explained Jaymie. “However, New England did not host a regional competition.”
So, in order for Jaymie to be part of the AAU event, she had to take a different route by filling out an application.
“The application includes questions inquiring about the twirler’s abilities, twirling achievements, and how the twirler has made an efficacious impact on his/her community through the power of baton twirling,” said Jaymie in an emailed interview. “Though I fretted that I would not be granted this lovely opportunity, there was no need, since I received an email explaining that I was chosen as one of the top twirlers to compete at the coveted national competition.”
“I felt so ecstatic knowing that I was given this once in a lifetime chance to represent the state of Connecticut at these elite games,” said Jaymie.
And how much of an honor is the AAU Junior Olympics?
Jaymie explained, “Even though numerous twirlers may compete at a regional competition or submit an application to travel to the Junior Olympics, there is still no guarantee that you will be chosen… It is a dream of every twirler to make it to the national competition, and though it is an arduous task, requiring several hours of practice and meticulous concentration on your routines, it is all worth the joy of stepping into the realm of competition, smelling the aroma of hairspray and glimpsing at the various routines that are presented, and knowing that you truly belong.”
To award those medals, Jaymie said judges keep a number of criteria in mind.
“They judge your poise, personality, execution of various tricks, technique, variety, and speed,” said Jaymie.
She added, “Contrary to the belief of many, judges do not concentrate on drops in a [twirling] routine. They want to ensure that the difficulty of the routine is up to par, and that the twirler moves with great eloquence.”
Besides giving her a chance to show others her skills, Jaymie also saw the skill of twirlers from across the country.
“It was quite astonishing. I saw teams of twirlers with creative, innovative routines that left me in awe, soloists who delivered their very best and showcased their love and passion for the sport, and I also saw twirlers do new tricks in their solos that I have never seen before.”
Asked what she learned by watching the other competitors, Jaymie said, “I learned that no matter where you’re from, whether it’s Bristol, Connecticut or Miami, Florida, every twirler has one thing in common. We all communicate with the unspoken language of baton twirling. It isn’t merely a hobby, or even a sport, it is so much more. It is what guides us through our every day lives. Through competitions like these, twirlers learn sportsmanship, compassion, benevolence, and cooperation.”
“An added bonus was that I was able to teach a new trick to everyone as well,” said Jaymie. “It is called a football kick, and it’s when I throw the baton, and while it’s suspended in the air I kick it, and this adds more revolution to the already spinning baton.”
This isn’t the first time Jaymie has been to the AAU event. She attended when she was 8. But now as a 15-year-old, she said, “I feel that I have more appreciation for the competition and what the AAU organization provides for baton twirlers.”
“Their competition allows twirlers to freely express themselves in a manner that asks who the twirler really is… I feel as if I gained a whole new perspective of twirling.”
Additionally, Jaymie said, “I realized how much I truly enjoy the sport. My fire of passion only cultivated, and I am so proud to be a baton twirler.”
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN