The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Baton twirling saved Brooke Goldberg's life.
When her father died six years ago, the sport kept her focused and eased her grieving. "I felt like I had to do good for him," the 16-year-old said.
She succeeded big-time. The basement of her Arnold home is a virtual sea of trophies. Brooke's most noteworthy wins came earlier this summer at a national competition where she finished first in pairs twirling with Kiera Holloway. Their team, Syndication, took first as well.
In addition, Brooke qualified for international competition in both individual and pairs events. The Broadneck High School sophomore will head to Holland next summer for the event.
"Every time I twirl I think of my dad," she said. "I know he's always there watching me."
Brooke's mother, Margie, is also there _ a witness to the training, travel and injuries elite level baton twirling entails. Once, Brooke's hip popped out during a contest, and rather than withdraw, she got taped up and finished her routine.
She also always has bruises from baton strikes. "I went to school with a black eye one time," she said.
A baton can hit her or fall to the ground for a number of reasons: not being thrown high enough; being blown off course by the wind; or failing to watch it for even a split second. The difficulty depends on the routine she's performing, and she has a large repertoire which mixes dance and gymnastics with twirling.
"People don't understand what's involved with it," said Margie, a secretary at Magothy River Middle School.
Brooke, who's also a member of her school's dance company, practices up to four hours a day. When she isn't outside, she's at the Roger "Pip" Moyer Community Recreation Center at Truxtun Park in Annapolis, which has a ceiling high enough to throw the baton.
In the past, she traveled to California at least once a month to practice with her team and Kiera, who lives in Sacramento. This year, she's joining a new team in New York and Kiera will fly here more often.
"They're really compatible," said Kiera's guardian, Gloria Hagemann. "They're really in tune together."
Kiera and Brooke will begin working on their routine for international competition soon. "Hopefully, we'll be No. 1 on the podium," said Kiera, 15.
Beyond the competitions and awards, twirling has allowed Brooke to make friends with girls from all over the country.
She'd like to continue with the sport through college before calling it a career.
"She's done it for so long, it'd be crazy not to," Margie said. "I think she's amazing. She's surpassed everything I thought she'd ever do with it."
Brooke became interested in twirling when she was 4 1/2. She saw a neighbor practicing and wanted to try it herself.
"When I was little I was fascinated," she said. "It's one of those sports people don't do much."
Margie thought her daughter would stop after a couple years, but as time went on, Brooke dropped other sports, such as soccer and field hockey, to concentrate on twirling.
"I don't know why I like it so much," she said. "It'd be weird if I didn't do baton. It's been such a big thing in my life."
In keeping with tradition, she names her batons. Felipe is her top twirler.
Brooke uses up to three batons at a time and will start twirling flaming batons at the next Broadneck High School football home game.
She gets nervous before every competition, but said twirling in front of her school is even more pressure. A lot of her classmates had never seen her perform before, so after the first football game, they came out to congratulate her.
"I didn't drop (the baton, so) I did pretty good," Brooke said.
Her coach, Amanda Duffy of Baltimore, said Brooke never fails to entertain when she's twirling. "When she's out there performing, all eyes are on her," the coach said.
Duffy is particularly impressed by a move Brooke does that encompasses two spins and a drop into a split before catching the baton.
"She has the whole package," Duffy said. "She can dance, she's very flexible and she can also twirl. She loves what she does, you can see it."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
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