National Champion Baton Twirler Calls Emmanuel Home
May 04, 2012
The first time Kayla Flaherty '15 threw a baton in the air, it ended just as it would for most, smacking her square in the head.
The injury proved a minor bump in the road along an impressive journey in the sport, one that has since led to multiple individual national championships in baton twirling, taking her across the country and hopefully to Italy in 2015 to represent the U.S. in the World Baton Twirling Championships.
Flaherty, an elementary education major, has been involved with the sport ever since she was young, when a neighbor invited her to learn more about the sport as part of a "bring a friend to camp day." The camp visit quickly sparked her interest.
"I fell in love with it," said Flaherty. "I came right home and told my mom I was going to be a baton twirler."
Since then, the Derry, N.H., native has progressed to become one of the top twirlers in the country. She has been a member of the Gangi Bay State Strutters Baton Twirling Team out of Woburn, Mass., since her freshman year in high school and continues to trek to the team's facility regularly in addition to practicing in the Jean Yawkey Center gymnasium during open hours. She practices four to five days a week, working religiously on her routines until she can leave practice without a single drop.
In her first year at Emmanuel, Flaherty established herself as one of the most spirited students on campus. In addition to being a member of the Emmanuel College dance team and performing during halftime of Saints' basketball games, she broke out her baton twirling skills at events such as the "Boston R.O.C.K. It!! Launch into Summer" program, a Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF)-sponsored event hosted by the College on February 22nd for Boston families, and Emmanuel's Midnight Madness, which celebrates all athletic teams and officially kicks off the men's and women's basketball seasons in the fall. Midnight Madness was the first time Flaherty performed for her fellow students and resulted in the loudest applause of the night.
I was a little nervous," said Flaherty. "I wasn't sure how everyone was going to respond, but they really liked it."
Baton twirling has allowed Flaherty to travel and compete across the country. The sport has also introduced her to international travel as well, as last year she voyaged to Peru as a performer and goodwill ambassador for the National Baton Twirling Association as part of the country's 10-day international spring festival.
Currently, Flaherty is looking toward her next international experience, this time as a U.S. representative at the world championships. To qualify, she must rank among the top three competitors in her age group out of thousands of competitors. While the competition is still three years away, Flaherty says she is setting her sights on it early as it will be her last opportunity to compete at the event.
She has come a long way since that initial baton twirl that went awry. Yet, even today as she looks toward competing on her sport's biggest stage, Flaherty still holds true to the lessons she learned from the very beginning.
"You have to be determined, you can't let your nerves get the best of you," she said. "You have to be dedicated and say, ‘I'm going to do this, I'm going to catch this trick.'"