Emily Sweeney Balances Batons



   Tossing, catching, and twirling, Emily Sweeny, a Latrobe junior, is a proud baton twirler for the Diamond Dolls. She’s been to countless competitions and has multiple awards for her performances for the past eight years. Although she has only been on her competition team for eight years, Emily started her twirling journey eleven years ago.

   “I started twirling when I couldn’t find a sport that I enjoyed playing. After years of tee ball, tennis, and a few others, I saw a team performing in Latrobe and instantly knew that’s what I wanted to do, and I’ve been twirling ever since!” Emily stated.

   Emily has won three first place wins in her solo twirling, four in her marching, two in modeling, and a pageant win. But, those are just her personal wins.

   Emily’s team is the current State Champion in Novelty and Strut team. They have collected six international titles and multiple regional titles! In all these victories, Emily’s proudest moments were when she performed her solo in 2021 at Miss Majorette of Pennsylvania when she won the title of Miss St. Patrick’s Day Novice (16+) in West Virginia.

  “This was my first pageant win and I received a crown, sash and plaque!” she said.

  Impressive feats for twirling solo for only two years! Competing is not the only time she shares her skills.

   Emily made an appearance in the latest musical from Latrobe’s drama club, “Bye-Bye Birdie!” Front and center, even in the background, she performed a self-choreographed piece in front of the hundreds of people attending the show along with her fellow cast members!

  “When I went to my singing audition, Mrs. Duda knew I twirled and asked me if I still did and if I could do a split,” she said. “When I said yes, I think she was starting to come up with an idea of where she wanted me to twirl. After rehearsal, I was asking about my spot since I had missed the previous rehearsal. I was told that I was going to twirl front and center for a little bit and then end in a split. It was so amazing to be able to share my abilities with the school and feel proud of myself for being confident enough to just be out there on stage doing my thing!”

  It wasn’t concrete if she was going to twirl, but according to Emily, Mrs. Duda and Mrs. Kertoy loved what she put together and let her have her moment on stage for all to see! 

   Emily twirled during a patriotic song called “Normal American Boy,” where she assisted the color guard in adding movement to the lively scene. Her routine meshed perfectly with the excitement and busyness of the scene, along with the pit’s energetic music. Seeing Emily pop out and start tossing a baton right in the front of the stage was an unexpected and very welcomed surprise!

   Emily explained the technique that goes into tossing and catching, and it’s not as easy as it seems. “You basically roll the baton off your thumb and lift just a little bit to make it spin and go up. There’s multiple ways to catch it, but for the most part, you just spot it during a trick and watch it until it’s in your hand. We always keep our palm facing upward, so it falls right into our hands. And when we catch it without looking, we place our tosses just perfectly and look at it until we can’t anymore. If you don’t place your tosses, it’s ten times harder to catch the baton.”

   Routines aren’t always perfect, Emily has dropped her baton many times during performances and competitions. 

   “I’ve been taught that when that happens, you just smile bigger and keep going. Sometimes I get flustered and drop more, but I always try to pull it together.”

  Baton twirling is a beautiful art, but even with the rigorous training, competitions, and performances, people don’t often consider it a sport. Emily gave a response to those who disregard baton in the sports world.

  “A sport involves a team or individual competing against others in a physical activity. I don’t see how baton doesn’t fit into that description,” she said, “When I hear people say that it’s not a sport, I feel like they don’t truly know or appreciate what we do.”

  One of Emily’s teammates wrote an essay explaining why twirling should be an Olympic sport. In her school’s featured essay column, her friend won first place and had her writing published. With this accomplishment, Emily and her team hope to make people aware of the hard work they all put into training and competing to try and take home a win.

  Being a junior, Emily has to make a decision on college and if she wants to continue twirling. Her top school choice is Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. At Juniata, Emily has a chance to get a spot on their marching band and even go on competing solos. Sadly, she has to leave her team behind.

  “That will be the thing I miss the most about going to college,” she stated. “The team means so much to me. There is no better feeling than walking off the floor feeling like you’ve done what you wanted to, like you’ve made yourself, your team, and your coach proud. I absolutely love coming off and seeing my teammates, hugging them, and then cheering them on as they twirl.”

  Emily’s teammates are a huge part of the performer she is now. She said, “They are absolutely the best people to be around. They never fail to help me with my confidence and help me improve. I don’t know what I would do without them.”

  Although she will leave her team, having the chance to do what she loves while studying for her planned career is a huge opportunity that many people don’t have. Emily is looking to become a teacher, possibly for elementary students. No matter what she chooses to do in the future, Emily Sweeny is going to take all of the lessons she’s learned and love she’s gotten from this amazing sport with her.