Baton twirlers Mikenzie Juskalian, Mikaela Juskalian and Micaela Shackleford set their sights high as they toss their batons way up in the air. Last week Mikenzie and Micalea, both rising sophomores at Villa Maria Academy, won national competitions held at the University of Notre Dame. The competition, known as AYOP (America’s Youth on Parade), calls itself the “World Series of Baton Twirling,” and is sponsored by the NBTA (National Baton Twirling Association). The contest includes divisions for individual athletes, duets, and teams at a variety of age levels.
Mikenzie won the National Beginner Pageant 13-15 division, a 3-part event consisting of Modeling; Strut, which displays strength, timing, flexibility, and body work; and, Solo, which displays skill in tosses and catches while doing spins, illusions, jumps, and kicks. She also competed in National Intermediate Age 14 Open Solo and Strut events, placing in the top 10 in both, and in both the national open Intermediate 2-baton and Beginner 3-baton.
Micaela Shackleford competed in the National Open Beginner Age 14 division, placing first in Strut, second in Solo, fifth in 2-baton, and top ten in 3-baton.
Mikenzie and Micaela are also duet partners who have a state duet title, and earned fifth place in National Open Beginner Duet Age 25-30 (combined ages).
Mikenzie’s national win follows a February victory at the International Baton Twirling Championship, Twirl Mania, held at the Wide World of Sports complex in Florida, and Pennsylvania state Beginner Pageant championship that qualified her to compete in the national contest. The sophomore is also setting her sights on twirling in college, with a goal of being the feature twirler at a major university, where she can lead a majorette line of twirlers onto the football field.
Mikenzie’s sister, senior Mikaela Juskalian, also enjoyed competitive success at AYOP. Mikaela Juskalian competed in National Open Intermediate Age 16 division Strut, Solo and 2-baton. She placed fifth in Beginner Open 3-baton, and second in Intermediate Open Duet. Mikaela Juskalian, like her sister, is also hoping to continue her twirling at the collegiate level.
The three twirlers have formed a group at Villa Maria, choreographing their own routines and performing at Villa pep rallies and Malvern Prep home football games, along with the Villa Maria cheerleaders. They represented Villa this past February at the international competition Twirl Mania at Disney World placing in top 10 for High School Classic routines. The girls compete at 10-12 competitions each year on the local, state, regional and national level.