Cori Walworth, an 8th-grader at Beach Middle School, is Chelsea’s only competitive twirler.
And this summer, the 13 year old from Dexter Township competed in her first National Baton Twirling Association competition at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind.
She placed in the Top 10 in four of the five categories in which she competed, but attending Nationals was not as much about how she finished as it was about the journey that got her there.
With baton in hand, Walworth’s face lights up, her poise, grace and confidence shines.
Her mom, Karen, her dad, Kurt, and her sister, Emma, will tell you that twirling has brought the once shy young lady out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Through twirling, a new Cori Walworth has emerged.
They’ll tell you that Cori twirls almost everything she gets into her hands — pencils, pens, even her sister’s field hockey stick.
She’s made new friends and learned new skills. And she’s found something she enjoys doing and plans to continue through college. There’s a new sense of pride when she puts on her tights, twirling shoes and special outfits that include matching hair accessories and bling earrings.
“It’s cool to be part of a team and, basically, a family,” Cori Walworth says of the 50 Saline Twirlettes she trains with twice a week. “I’m pretty lucky to be part of them.”
Walworth began twirling about 5 years ago when she was offered a chance to try the sport for free. Immediately, she fell in love with it.
After starting with a Chelsea group that has since disbanded, her coach, Amy Branch, suggested that she go to Saline and work with Susan Usher, the head coach of the Saline Twirlettes.
Branch teaches twirling in Grass Lake, but the group there is younger and not on the level that Walworth is, so she and her mom, (sometimes her sister or father), make the twice weekly trek to a school gym in Saline where Walworth practices after school.
This summer, she trained five days a week for more than a month in preparation for Nationals.
“Cori joined the National Team for the first time this past summer,” Usher said. “Myself, my other coaches, and the team were very excited because she has a lot of potential, and more importantly, she’s a hard worker.”
Usher said, “I was exciting to see her progress this summer,” adding that her placements were “extremely good for her first year at Nationals.”
Almost 2,000 baton twirlers from across the country competed at Nationals and although Walworth admits she was a little nervous, she reached a personal goal while there.
“I caught my first Reverse 1,” she said, “I was messing around with it and I did it,” she said of the advanced baton trick.
Her coach says Cori’s parents are very supportive and helped the team immensely with building props and making repairs.
In fact, Karen Walworth is even going to try her hand at making her daughter a new twirling costume this year after receiving a pattern from another mom.
“It was a lot of fun,” Cori Walworth said of her experience at the large competition. “I met a lot of people.”
And, it was a chance for her to see just how close-knit a family the Twirlettes are — not just at the special team dinner but also throughout the competition.
“We support each other,” she said. “I get really nervous when I compete, but now that I’ve been to Nationals, it’s not as bad. Being part of a team and having their support, it’s fun.”
Plus, Cori learned that even if she dropped her baton while competing, as long as she kept a happy face and her energy going, the judge’s rewarded the effort.
“It’s about doing your best and having fun,” she said.