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Wild West Baton twirling competition takes over Calgary

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Around 120 baton twirling athletes competed in the Wild West Competition and regional championships in Calgary this weekend.

Athletes aged five to 23 took to the Genesis Centre gym floor looking to impress the judges with their skill, tricks and presentation.

“For me as an athlete, it's really about getting my routines on the floor,” said Paige Epp.

“This is my second competition of the season, so I was really looking for my personal best and still working to perfect my routines.”

For Brooke Mauro, the sport may not be as popular as others, but crafting the skill set takes a lot of dedication.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks, but it's also a lot more fun and it looks a lot more satisfying. When you catch your trick you've been working on the floor, like it's the best feeling ever,” said Mauro.

“You have to have a lot of good gymnastic skills, dance skills, and then hand-eye coordination.”

The athletes are trying to qualify for provincial championships in May, with 23 from this weekend expected to perform on the world stage in Liverpool, England this summer.

QUALIFYING FOR PROVINCIALS

The athletes are trying to qualify for provincial championships in May, with 23 from this weekend expected to perform on the world stage in Liverpool, England this summer.

Alberta Baton Twirling Association central region board chair Michael Maes says the pandemic had a major impact on participationin the sport seeing a 35 per cent decrease in registration.

Maes says that was due in large part to the lack of facilities available for athletes and teams to compete in.

“When you say baton, everybody knows what a baton is,” says Maes.

“You just think marching band and stuff like that but once you start to get into the sport and watch the development and athleticism of the kids, you can see that it's a combination of artistic dance, athletic ability and there's so many avenues for the kids to express themselves.”

Jenna Jemieff,  who coaches at Inspire Baton Club in Olds, has been around the sport since she first competed at age four.

Now Jemieff says it's about giving back to the next generation of athletes.

“The opportunities I was granted in the sport, it’s a very niche and unique sport and along with that comes just so many amazing opportunities,” said Jemieff.

"I always had to travel to the city to do baton twirling, so I just wanted to be able to give back to the sport, grow the sport and give kids in a more rural area an opportunity to do something that they would not have the opportunity to do otherwise."

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