When Kourtney Poland turned four, she moved in with her aunt, Mary DeBell, and began a life in Swanzey, New Hampshire. After Poland’s fourth birthday, her aunt brought home a bag with a twirling baton inside.
“My aunt told me she signed me up for baton twirling lessons,” Poland remembered.
“The bag was funny looking and I was more interested in that because it was so colorful!”
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Fast forward 13 years and Poland is competing with the Red Star Twirlers, making a name for herself as a national baton-twirling champion.
After the baton introduction, five-year-old Poland joined Lynette’s Dance Studio in Swanzey, NH, where she soon exceeded far beyond what the instructors could teach her.
“She was doing baton, ballet, and tap all at the same time, but she was more into the baton twirling,” DeBell said. “She liked the challenge of the baton.”
Soon, Poland began competing as an individual in competitions across New England. Poland won the first individual competition she entered, competing in Basic Strut.
Poland explained the various categories within the sport of twirling.
Basic Strut consists of marching in a square so judges can critique the athlete on form.
“I like solo,” she said, “It’s your time to shine—show ‘em what you got.”
But, Poland’s favorite category is Freestyle, where the competitors create a routine to their own choice of music. Such a style allows Poland to incorporate a coveted skill—twirling with fire.
Poland continued her blossoming career as a self-taught baton twirler after competing as an individual.
With no real professional gymnastics training, Poland dedicated herself to learning most of her moves on her own.
“Twirling became her main interest after her first competition,” DeBell said.
“She wanted to go on further.”
“When I was little I was outside practicing from the time I got home from school until it was black outside,” Poland remembered.
“She never really took exercise classes,” DeBell said. “She did this on her own. She would draw up a video on the Internet and she would mock it. That was amazing.”
By the time Poland reached fifth grade she was eager to get back into a studio.
Poland joined the prestigious Red Star Twirlers, a national championship team of twirlers in Derry, NH
With the Red Stars, Poland competed in states across the country and competed in the U.S. National Competition in Indiana.
For a brief period of time in high school, Poland left Red Star and joined Ameri-Kids in Auburn, NH, where she and her team won several international titles.
Despite success with Ameri-Kids, Poland left the club feeling she was not being pushed to her limits as she was with the Red Star Twirlers.
Red Star Twirlers Director, Choreographer, and 2010 Twirl Mania Coach of the Year recipient, Gina Hutchinson, explained the sport of twirling in her own words.
“Twirling is a horrendously amazing aerobic exercise. You’re using every single muscle in your body, and you’re pushing it as fast as you can go,” she said.
Commenting on Poland as an athlete, Hutchinson named Poland an “incredibly passionate baton twirler.”
“She is absolutely passionate about what she does,” Hutchinson said. “She pushes herself. She’s extremely self-motivated, one of the fastest twirlers we have.”
Red Star teammate Kaleigh McIver spoke highly of Poland when she said Poland was one of the most dedicated athletes she knew.
“She and I worked very well together—we were friendly but competitive. She was one of my closest teammates,” McIver said.
“When she’s on her game, she does an amazing performance.”
Coach Hutchinson added, “I love Kourtney. She’s one of those girls who are self- reliant.”
Poland’s career as a baton twirler has allowed her to participate in incredible events and celebrations.
Her favorite memories include twirling with the Red Stars in the Washington D.C. Fourth of July parade, twirling with Twirl Mania in Disney World, and twirling in the Disney Spectra Magic Parade.
Poland, who has made attempts to make her name and talent known among the KSC student body, remains determined to bring twirling to the college.
While KSC lacks a twirling team of its own, Poland has advocated for herself, recently performing at the half-time show for KSC Men’s and Women’s Basketball.
Poland plans to continue making opportunities for herself at KSC.
“I’m a performer and I want to perform,” Poland stated.
“It’s my form of self-expression. When people tell me they love watching me and I see them smile—I live for that. I love other people’s reactions and what they get out of it. I have a display of trophies, but the material things don’t really mean anything to me.”
Poland went on to graciously thanks her aunt, who took her in and drove Poland an hour and a half north several times each week for practices.
“I couldn’t have done anything without my aunt; it’s a lot of time and money. She paid all the bills and sewed all my costumes that needed to be fixed—anything I needed,” Poland said.
Despite the humble and unassuming character, one thing’s for sure – there’s no ignoring Poland’s talent.
KSC will see more of this freshman in the upcoming months and years.
Coach Hutchinson said, “She’s one of those young women who is going to be amazing at whatever she chooses to do.”
Julie Conlon can be contacted at email@example.com