Featured Talent: Josie Gillette

Rachel Meehan, A&E and Copy Editor

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Standing in the center of Bates Field, lights flooding her vision, Josie Gillette ‘21 accompanies the City High marching band during their halftime show. With her glittery costume on and baton in hand, she takes to the ‘stage’ and performs for hundreds of City High families and students. 

While most kids her age are in the beginning of their elementary school years, Gillette started baton twirling. She began at the age of 7 under the assistance of Chelsea Russel, the golden girl at the University of Iowa at that time. 

“My grandma once showed me a video of the golden girl, Chelsea Russel and asked me if I wanted to do baton twirling,” said Gillette. “I told her that it looked really cool so she signed me up for lessons.”

After Gillette became more educated and skilled in the world of baton twirling, she joined a local baton team for the studio, Ambition. She practices every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, for 10 hours a week. For Gillette, baton twirling is not only a sport, but a way for her to grow as a person while doing what she loves alongside her teammates. 

“It’s really fun for me to perform,” Gillette said. “It’s cool to see everyone’s reaction to certain tricks I can do, and it also gives me more confidence. My favorite part though is having a team and making friends. I’ve twirled with them so long and made them like my family.”

Gillette’s team is made up of 5 other girls from around the Iowa City area. They all go to the studio, Ambition, and compete on the senior team together. The six of them perform, dance at halftime shows, and even compete together at a variety of different baton twirling competitions around Iowa. 

“[Baton twirling competitions] are mostly made up of a lot of twirlers, and even some boys too,” said Gillette. “They usually last from eight in the morning to four at night. There are tons of girls of all different ages and different ability levels. You are also able to watch other teams perform and get to compete against them.”

Along with frequent competitions and weekly practices, this school year brought a new challenge for Gillette in baton. She got the opportunity to perform with the City High marching band in their halftime performances during home games at Bates Field. 

“Performing with the marching band was really fun, and I got to make a lot of friends,” said Gillette. “I also learned a lot about marching band and the stuff that they do. They seemed to like to have a featured twirler.”

Baton twirling has become a staple in Gillette’s life, especially now in high school. Just as the sport is widely uncommon and unique, it has also proven to be difficult at times for Gillette and her teammates. 

“Learning new tricks can be really hard, but it is a really cool experience,” said Gillette. “My three spin trick is something I’ve just started to get consistent with. The three spin is where I toss my baton and spin under it three times. It’s fun but it can be frustrating at times if I don’t toss my baton straight up or I toss it too much in front of me, which makes it hard to catch. I really have to focus on every little thing with baton.”

Gillette has put countless hours of her time and efforts into baton twirling over the years. With all of her performances and competitions, she has grown more as an athlete and has learned more about herself in the process. When asked what she would say to aspiring baton twirlers, Gillette replied with these words of inspiration:

“Go for it! You shouldn’t feel like you are too old to start or anything, because there are so many levels of baton twirling for all different ages,” said Gillette. “It doesn’t really matter how old you are. You can still learn new tricks that suit your ability. Performing can be scary, but it always feels rewarding afterwards!”