Lakewood Ranch High twirlers add a unique spin to their performance.
It was like any other twirling performance for Lakewood Ranch High junior Tiffany McCoy, and senior Maya Lander, except for one little detail.
When the two girls were performing at Lakewood Ranch High Aug. 27 before the game against Seminole, the ends of their batons were on fire.
Crowds always love the stunt, but Lander admits working with fire makes her nervous, especially at the beginning of the football season, which is the only event where the girls twirl fire.
“We could be doing easy stuff, but the fact we’re twirling fire is cool to people,” Lander said.
During each football game, the Marching Mustangs play a featured song (in this case "Party Rock Anthem") and that's when the fire is lit. After a few games each season, it becomes second nature.
Having baton twirlers perform alongside the band during pre-game performances has become a tradition at Lakewood Ranch High School for the past six years.
It gives McCoy and Lander a time to shine with their unique talents.
McCoy started twirling when she was in first grade while Lander started in third grade. They’ve continued twirling ever since with the Bradenton Twirling Academy, developing more skills and tricks.
“It’s fun to learn new tricks, and I like how it incorporates a lot of different things,” Lander said. “It’s kind of like dance and gymnastics in one.”
When they became freshmen at Lakewood Ranch High School, Lander and McCoy were excited to join the other majorettes on the field.
The girls work together to create a routine for their performances, making sure they give each other an opportunity to showcase their talent with solos.
Besides twirling at football games, McCoy and Lander participate in baton twirling competitions.
McCoy has been competing for 10 years and has won several competitions. Lander started competing in 2018.
“I like the competitive aspect of twirling,” McCoy said. “It’s fun to push yourself during practices because you want to do well. It’s fun pushing yourself to do harder things and putting in the time to get better results.”
In 2019, McCoy entered several categories for her age group and skill level and won first place for Miss Twirl Mania, first place for Military Strut, and first place for I Strut, at the Twirl Mania International Championships at Walt Disney World.
“That was fun because I had competed twice before in those categories, and I never expected to win,” McCoy said. “I just tried to do my best.”
The girls have placed in the top 10 at Twirl Mania in categories such as Best Appearing (twirlers are also judged on their costumes) and Solo.
“It’s cool to see different talents from different countries,” said Lander, who noted most regional competitions are against twirlers they know.
McCoy and Lander want to continue competing, but the pandemic has knocked out competitive events for now.
When everything was shut down last year due to the pandemic, McCoy and Lander would compete against themselves at home. They would go into their backyards or the street to practice.
“It’s fun because when I practice in the street, all my neighbors will be like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’” McCoy said. “I’m doing the most simple things to me but I guess it’s fun for them to watch.”
Although McCoy said competitors are friendly and supportive, both Lander and McCoy enjoy the football pregame show performances because there isn’t the pressure of competition and they can relax to showcase their unique talents. They also serve in other roles as Lander is a drum major while McCoy is in the color guard.
“We get to do what we want to do and do more majorette type tricks than being judged at a competition,” Lander said. “You can show your school spirit.”
McCoy said pregame performances have tricks that involved throwing the baton in the air and doing a 360 turn before catching it and they are able to do more illusions such as spinning on one leg while twirling the baton.
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