You see them at football and basketball games twirling and throwing their batons, but the WCU twirlers do a lot more than sporting events. Tammy Russell, Holly Russell and Laurie Harvey represent WCU in many competitions around the country. On Feb. 3 at their latest competition, the Intercollegiate National Baton Twirling Championship held outside of Indianapolis, Ind., the ladies took home the gold medal in the dance twirl division, half time and overall championship against such schools as Perdue and North Carolina State.
“We all jumped into [our coach’s] arms right away,” said Holly Russell about their reaction to hearing they won overall championship. “I was so excited,” she gushed. The girls won despite being one of the smaller schools represented at the competition and said that after finding out that Perdue placed second, they thought they might have a chance to win.
“It was quite an accomplishment,” Elaine Russell, the girl’s coach said. “It still brings tears to my eyes.” Elaine is the mother of Tammy and Holly and the team’s coach.
To get to this level, all three girls practice at least two hours a day either on campus or at studio. They all still practice that much even after years of twirling and competing. All three girls on the team started twirling long before college, at Elaine’s All Star Twirling and Dance Studio.
Tammy was the first to enter college and when she asked the athletic director about twirling he told her he did not want only one person to win. So she waited three years until Holly came to West Chester and they started twirling at football and basketball games. A couple of years later, Harvey came to West Chester, and the team grew to three members.
Twirling, which takes a lot of time and practice, also costs a lot of money. The girls recieve no funding for the cost of their costumes, or entry fees into competitions. Elaine designs all the girl’s costumes to the specifications of the Athletic Director for the competitions and the girls purchase them. They also pay anywhere from $25-$125 for individual or group fees for competitions.
According to Elaine, twirling is a largely college level sport, but there are few opportunities for twirlers. Scholarships are rare and recognition on campuses is infrequent. However, the U.S. Nationals are in the process of funding scholarships for twirlers.
Tammy and Holly are both graduate students pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice and Human Resources and Harvey is a sophomore.
If anyone is interested in joining the WCU twirlers you can call 610-857-9435, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.