In the small town of Girard, Kansas, population 2,500, BethΓÇÖs Batoners has become not only a community staple, but also a nationally recognized team of twirlers.
Beth Wilson started the group 22 years ago in 1982 when she was a senior in high school. The group started with just 22 members. As Wilson continued instructing the group through college, she quickly built the group up to 45 members.
After receiving her accounting degree, Wilson tried to work and teach. Juggling both jobs became too much, and Wilson decided to quit her job in the office in order to dedicate herself to twirling.
Wilson decided to search for a studio 1990 so there would be a central location for lessons every night of the week. The team found a little building in the town square in Girard. The group expanded to 70 members and holds strong at that number. According to Wilson, ΓÇ£It is not a big number but it is what I can handle on my own.ΓÇ¥
In 1986, Wilson began traveling with some of her students to the National Baton Twirling Association (NBTA) Nationals, otherwise known as AmericaΓÇÖs Youth on Parade (AYOP). After the first year, Wilson modified her policy and attended the competition with only individuals whom had qualified to compete in the Miss Majorette pageant, a policy she kept until 1990.
In 1996, Wilson evolved the group again and decided that they would start working on team material for AYOP in January instead of June, as they had done in the previous years. That year BethΓÇÖs Batoners brought home their first national team title in Senior Halftime Show Twirl Team.
BethΓÇÖs Batoners national competition team varies in size each year from around 12 to 18 members. Beth says the national team members ΓÇ£are great role models for the rest of the group that have chosen to be involved locally but not at such a time-consuming level.ΓÇ¥
Beth's Batoners national competition team recently returned to Kansas from AYOP, held annually at the University of Notre Dame. They regained the national championship title in Primary and Junior High Halftime Show Team. Adding to their success, five other group routines placed in the top ten in the advanced team competition, and two beginner twirl teams earned a championship title, while the third placed in the top ten.
Individual competitors were awarded national championship titles in Junior Trio, 16-year-old 3-Baton, 14-year-old Show Twirl and 11-year-old Show Twirl. The team members earned 60 other Top 10 individual awards.
Beth's students have a great relationship both in and out of the studio. Just before leaving for nationals, the twirlers gathered for their annual sleepover where they welcome new members into the national team. Beth says, "the older members look out for the new younger members". Some members attend the same schools, but twirling brings these girls together.
Beth's Batoners will be hosting some upcoming contests in Kansas area. Saturday, April 16 is a tentative date for the Annual Spring Fling Twirling Competition. Kansas State and Miss Majorette is on a three year rotation basis around the state. Beth's Batoners will be hosting the 2005 Championships on June 4 and 5. The open competition and State Championships will be held on Saturday and the Miss Majorette and State Teams will be held on Sunday. To see this and other contest listings, visit TwirlZone's contest postings.
TwirlZone would like to thank Beth Wilson and her Batoners for sharing their story with us. If you would like to reach Beth Wilson, you can contact her at (620) 724-6160 or email@example.com.
Author: Beth Wilson & Michelle Weiss
Editors: Jami Baustert & Kristy Anderson
Photos provided by: Beth Wilson