BY RACHEL SHARPE
At high school football games, baton twirlers often get lost between the rhythmic noise of the band and the hollering of the cheerleaders. But senior Ashley Bishop doesn’t need a band to make noise. Bishop’s ability to create seamless routines combining elements of dance and gymnastics while manipulating one or multiple batons has led to her tremendous success, and to her most recent achievement of becoming a gold medal recipient at the AAU Junior Olympic Games this past summer.
VIDEO BY TAYLOR MANDEL
Baton twirling has been a major part of Bishop’s life ever since she was six years old, when she used to watch her cousin perform her own baton routines.
“My aunt took me to my first private lesson and I immediately fell in love with the sport,” Bishop said.
Soon after, Bishop joined a baton company called the Florida Superstars, where she began to develop her undeniable passion for twirling. Three years later in 2007, she entered her first individual competition called the Miss Majorette of Florida Pageant. Bishop clearly made her mark on the judges, placing first overall in the competition.
“Winning my first major title was probably my proudest moment,” Bishop said.
Bishop’s success in her first competition ignited a fire and compelled her to truly dedicate herself to the sport. She began practicing everyday, whether she was training with the Florida Superstars or perfecting her routines. Though such intense practice required a great deal of time and dedication, Bishop was fully committed to twirling and reaching her goals.
“My coaches are always pushing me to try harder,” Bishop said. “When I get frustrated, they encourage me and tell me I can do it.”
Her perseverance and undying love for twirling paid off when she qualified for the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) Junior Olympics this past August in New Orleans, Louisiana. To qualify for the games, Bishop first competed on a regional level and then advanced to the southeast regional qualifier in Orlando, where she took all gold and one silver. Bishop showed that she was a force to be reckoned with when she qualified in all eight of the events she entered, including solo, strut, 2 baton, 3 baton, multi baton, freestyle and solo dance twirl.
The AAU Junior Olympics consisted of a preliminary round and a final round. Bishop faced a tough group of competitors as she was often up against college students and elite members of other teams.
“The competition was so intense that I had to do a twirl-off against a girl who I tied with,” Bishop said. “We both twirled at the same time and the panel of 10 judges decided the winner amongst themselves based on our ability.”
In the final round of the competition, Bishop rose above her opponents, winning four gold medals and four silver medals.
“Ashley is an outstanding athlete,” AAU Judge Joe Rowe said. “She was awarded four gold medals because she excelled in several competition events and her routines met the variety, difficulty, speed, smoothness, gracefulness, showmanship, endurance and strength of the judges’ expectations.”
Though Bishop may exude confidence during all her performances, she still gets nervous before twirling in front of a panel of judges. Luckily, she has created ways to keep her nerves from getting the best
“I listen to music to help clear my mind,” Bishop said. “It helps me get in the ‘zone.’”
With so much practicing and performing, Bishop has had to dedicate a great deal of her time to pursue her dreams. In just the past few years, she has performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Miami Heat halftime show, University of Miami football games and the half time show at the FedEx Orange Bowl. She even traveled to Belgium as member of team USA for the World Championships in 2009.
“My parents are my biggest supporters,” Bishop said. “They have driven me everywhere and are willing to wake up at 5 in the morning to sit in a convention center and just watch me twirl. It’s great knowing that my parents are behind me 100 percent.”
While Bishop spends hours twirling outside of school, she still manages to find time to twirl on the CCHS’s twirl line during the halftime shows at Cowboy football games. This year, Bishop has earned her spot as “feature twirler” after being a successful co-captain as a sophomore and captain as a junior.
“This is the first year CCHS has had a feature twirler and Ashley has really performed to her highest ability,” Bishop’s teammate, sophomore Jillian Boudreau said. “She has shown Cooper what twirling is all about.”
As the feature twirler, Bishop is on the field performing a solo routine, while the rest of the line is performing a separate routine behind her. However, she still twirls with the line for the first couple of seconds to show strong teamwork. After being on CCHS’s twirl line for four years, it has become a significant part of Bishop’s life that she can’t imagine not being a part of.
“When I perform at the football games, I get a rush of excitement from hearing the crowd roaring,” Bishop said. “When the Sound of Pride starts to play, I feel like I belong no other place than on the field.”
Though her Friday nights twirling at the Cowboy football games are almost through, Bishop still has big plans ahead of her. In the spring of 2012, Bishop and her competitive team, The Florida Superstars, will represent the United States for the second consecutive year at the National Baton Twirling Association (NBTA) world competition in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Once she graduates from high school, Bishop hopes to attend Florida State University and twirl on their baton line.
“I would love to try out for the feature twirler spot my sophomore year in college,” Bishop said. “I know that I will stay involved in the baton twirling community for a long time, whether it’s judging competitions or teaching baton to young kids.”
When the band finishes playing at the last football game of the season, Bishop will take her final bow as a CCHS baton twirler. Though she will be leaving, her incredible spirit and energy will remain as she has inspired her teammates at CCHS. Bishop will always be remembered for the excellence she has achieved in the sport of twirling.