Emmie Rogers was practically born with a twirling baton in her hand.
“She’s been twirling since she was 18 months old,” said Betty Rogers, her grandmother and coach. “I was the featured twirler at Ole Miss and her mother was the featured twirler at Furman, so we had an itty, bitty baton waiting for her in the hospital when she was born.”
A rising third-grader at Mount Vernon Exploratory School, Emmie, 8, is seeing all those years of twirling come to fruition this week in a national competition.
Emmie and 10-year-old Avery Williams, a rising fifth-grader at Mount Vernon who also trains with Betty Rogers, are in Detroit this week competing as baton twirlers in the national AAU Junior Olympics competition.
The two girls are part of the North Georgia Stars twirlers, which includes about 50 girls who practice at the North Hall and East Hall community centers and are coached by Rogers.
Rogers said she has taught thousands of children ages 4-18 in the past 35 years, but this is the first time she has ever taken any to the national competition.
“I’m thrilled and excited,” Rogers said.
Baton twirling is one of 14 sports included this year at the national event, according to the organization’s website. Other sports include basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, football, jump rope, karate, strength sports like powerlifting and weightlifting, sport stacking, swimming, taekwondo, track and field, trampoline and tumbling and wrestling.
Emmie and Avery earned their way to the event by placing in the top three in a variety of categories in the Southeast regionals last month in Roswell.
Avery is scheduled to compete today in her first event in Michigan: the freestyle competition. Both girls are set to compete Wednesday in six other events: one baton, two baton, basic march, military march, hoop baton and flag.
“Both of us are very competitive,” Avery said.
Avery has been training and competing under Rogers since she was 5 years old. Her sister twirled at Georgia Tech.
“I actually broke my tooth twirling baton,” Avery said. “The baton hit me in the tooth and chipped it. A lot of people get hit on their head from twirling because they haven’t practiced a lot.” She added that “me and Emmie have bumped heads” while twirling batons.
Emmie said she wants to continue the family tradition, but also has other reasons for twirling.
“I mostly do it because my whole family twirls, and I like going to the contests and winning all the trophies and medals,” she said.
Both girls said their favorite events are one- and two-baton events where they toss either one or two batons into the air, spin and then catch the batons.
“You have different tricks for one and two batons,” Avery said.
With more than three decades of coaching twirlers, Rogers said she continues to enjoy it.