A beam of sunlight glints off the silver baton as it flies in the air, flipping end-over-end. As it passes through the midst of the falling leaves, gravity quickly sends the elegant stick back into the small, quick hand of the tosser. Catching her breath in awe of the graceful performance of the baton, a pre-teen spectator makes a simple, but definite, decision: I don’t want to be a cheerleader; I don’t want to be dancer; I want to be a twirler.
At the age of 11, Abby Rhodes made a decision that set her life on a course to become KC’s 2016/2017 Ranger Band Feature Twirler. From that day of discovery, she twirled through middle school, high school and now college.
“Abby caught my attention because of her grace, poise and attention to details while performing,” said Paige Keitt, KC’s twirl line sponsor. “She is unique because she has an awesome work ethic. I like the way that she pushes herself to learn and master new tricks.”
Rhodes actually spent her first year at Tyler Junior College, but decided to transfer to KC and try out for the feature twirler position previously held by Alex Bridges.
“I made the twirling line at TJC and I quit right before the first game because the twirling director had just quit and it was going downhill really fast,” Rhodes said. “It’s a lot more fun here. I really enjoy the girls on the line and we are always together.”
Although she has been twirling since she was in the sixth grade, this is first year that Rhodes has been a feature twirler.
“I actually prefer twirling solo over twirling in a line. I’ve twirled on a line too, but I really love twirling as a soloist because I get to make up my own stuff,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about what other people do; I can just focus on what I can do.”
Concentrating on her twirling skills is just one thing on her schedule. Rhodes said time management plays an important part in her ability to juggle twirling, school and work.
“Feature twirlers must practice several hours every day to maintain their skill level,” Keitt said. “I admire Abby for stepping out of her comfort zone and trying something different, like being a feature twirler. She came from more of a dance/twirl background (in school).”
Over the past year, Rhodes has not only changed schools and twirling styles, she has also taken on a high school twirl line of her own.
“I’m very happy that she has time in her busy schedule to be the twirling sponsor for the Lindale High School twirling line,” Keitt said. “She gets to see the twirling experience from the other side. I think this experience will only help to make her a more valuable asset to the twirling program at KC.”
Rhodes is majoring in business and plans on transferring to a university to earn her bachelor’s degree. However, she is uncertain if she will continue twirling at the university level, depending on the strength of its line.
“I do see twirling staying in my future. Before this year I didn’t see myself as a twirling sponsor, but it just kept coming my way,” Rhodes said. “Now I think that in the future I will have a studio and I will always be a twirling sponsor. I really do love it.”