ISU twirler wins national events

Karen Whitman, ISU featured baton twirler, won first place in two events at the ninth U.S. Intercollegiate and National High School Baton Twirling Championships in Liberty, Mo. on Feb. 3.

Daniel Bush

Iowa State’s feature twirler Karen Whitman won the Three-Baton and Collegiate Fight Song events at the ninth U.S. Intercollegiate and National High School Baton Twirling Championships.

Whitman said she was going into the event hoping to keep the title of Three-Baton that she won in 2012 and to also win the Fight Song.

“Being able to come home with them both was awesome,” Whitman said. She also took second place in the Two-Baton event.

The competition was Feb. 3 at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and was sponsored by the National Coalition for the Advancement of Baton Twirling.

Athletes from across the United States, including California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas competed in the competition.

“In August, I’ll be going to the Netherlands, because I’m part of Team USA,” Whitman said. “I’m heading to the International Cups, so I’ll be training a lot for that.”

Twirling wasn’t the first activity Whitman started. She explained how she couldn’t sit at the piano when she was little because she wanted to move around and dance. Her neighbor introduced Whitman to baton twirling and it “took off from there,” with dance and other training.

“Baton twirling is a demanding aerobic and artistic sport that takes years of training in twirling, as well as dance and gymnastics,” said Anna Dolan, director of the coalition.

The amount of time for training every day depends on the season.

Whitman spends about two hours during the spring, three hours during the fall and four to five hours during the summer in preparation for nationals, she said.

“And then I do cardio on top of that to stay in physical shape,” Whitman said. “Usually about 45 minutes to an hour, five times a week.”

Whitman is the only baton twirler at Iowa State. She also performs in the ISU marching band. In some performances she uses four batons in her routines and tricks, she said.

“She is just like another band member,” said Steven Smyth, associate director of bands at Iowa State. “We like when things that are such visible parts of the marching band get honors and get recognized for the greatness that they are and she is one of the great things about the marching band.”

Being a member of the Tau Beta Sigma Theta Xi National Honorary Band Sorority, Whitman shared why joining the sorority helped her with the marching band.

“It was a way for me to make more of a connection with the band,” Whitman said. “I went and worked a little harder to make sure that there was that connection between me and the band.”

Whitman is a senior in event management. Since her passion is sports, she hopes to plan sporting events for a university, she said. Her dream is to plan events for the Olympics.

“I think [twirling] could have a foot in the door for me,” Whitman said, “because I have some the experiences that they’ll have going internationally.”

Whitman’s passion is noticed by others as well.

“What makes Karen great in my mind is her personality,” Smyth said. “She is one of the happiest, sweetest girls in the entire group; she’s very passionate about what she does, [and] she’s passionate about Iowa State.”