Girls on fire

Hidden within the marching band, four girls emerge twirling and tossing fire-lit batons. Here’s a look into the lives of West High’s baton twirlers.

Lily Prochaska, Print Sports Editor

West Side Story: What is the best part of performing at football games?

Lauren Yacopucci ’26 (4 year twirler): Getting to watch the game from right on the side of the field and hearing the cheering from the crowd, especially when we use the fire batons.

WSS: What training do you have to go through to be able to use fire in your performances?

LY: At our studio, we start fire-batoning when we get to Level 3, and it’s only a summer class, so we don’t practice it as much. We all have our own fire batons, and we can do it at home, but no training is required. We just learn how to handle it and not hurt ourselves or others.

WSS: Who is someone you look up to?

LY: Ella McDaniel. She is the University of Iowa twirler and the current Miss Majorette of America. She also won a national title [in cheer] before the age of 18. She’s just so amazing.

WSS: What are your goals with twirling?

LY: I’m training just in general to become a better twirler, but specifically, I’m hoping to do better at nationals this summer than I did at the past nationals. My goals are just to make sure I’m having fun and working to the best of my ability.


WSS: What is the coolest event you’ve performed at?

Ashley Niemiec ’25 (5 year twirler): We have twirled on ice at an Iowa Heartlanders hockey game before which was pretty fun.

WSS: What does your training regime consist of?

AN: I have practice for three and a half hours Monday through Wednesday. On Wednesdays, Julia Dorale, Ava Frese and I have dance class together. We also all have private lessons with our coach. Then on weekdays, we practice with the West High band.

WSS: Who is someone you look up to?

AN: I look up to my coach, a previous West High student, Jessica Baker Maxwell. She is very patient and like a big sister to everyone at our studio.

WSS: What is a fun fact about you?

AN: I coach baton twirling at Ambition Baton and Dance Studio and co-teach one of my classes with Ava Frese. We teach a class called Tiny Tots which are 3 to 5-year-olds and a class called Gems which are 5 to 6-year-olds.

WSS: Do you plan on twirling in the future?

AN: Yes, I plan to twirl through college. I’m looking to twirl at Mississippi State University or the University of Maryland.

WSS: How do you feel leading up to a performance?

Ava Frese ’26 (7 year twirler): I used to get really nervous before performing, but now, I am mostly really excited.

WSS: What is the best part of performing at football games?

AF: The crowd. I love their reactions when we use the fire batons; they get so excited.

WSS: What do you enjoy about twirling?

AF: My favorite thing about twirling is that many people don’t know about it, and it’s fun when people ask you what twirling is. I like to get people interested in it.

WSS: What are some of the coolest events you’ve done?

AF: Nationals, which is at the University of Notre Dame, and we’ve also performed at the halftime show for Iowa basketball games at Carver Hawkeye Arena.

WSS: What are your goals for your twirling career?

AF: A scholarship would be really cool. If there is an opportunity at a college that I want to go to, I would take it.


WSS: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of twirling?

Julia Dorale ’26 (7 year twirler): I really like how unique it is. When I tell people that I’m a baton twirler, not a lot of people know what it is, and there’s definitely some fun in that. My least favorite part is that it can be hard if you have a bad routine to bounce back. Mentally being able to turn around even if you have to do the same [routine] again and still give it your absolute best is difficult sometimes.

WSS: Do you prefer performing as part of a team or individually?

JD: Performing as a team and performing individually are so different, so I can’t choose. With a team, it’s all about practicing together and working out the routine. Performing individually is just as important because it’s you trying to do your personal best.

WSS: What is the best twirling advice you’ve received?

JD: General advice that we’ve always been told is that anyone can have a bad day at practice. None of us are perfect, and there are so many things that can go wrong with a routine, so keeping that in mind when performing is important.

WSS: Do you plan on twirling in the future?

JD: I definitely will be doing it throughout the rest of high school; college is up in the air right now.