BY TINA HENNESSEY
SC Staff Writer
Many see her around campus in her sparkling attire while twirling outside on the Quad, in the Mattioli Recreation Center, or East Stroudsburg University (ESU) football games. Melissa Valentovic, a sophomore Communication Studies major with a concentration in Broadcasting at ESU, has been an active twirler for 15 years.
Valentovic’s mom initially signed her up for twirling at a recreation center program in her hometown at the age of four. She is currently the feature twirler in ESU’s Warrior Marching Band. This past summer Valentovic traveled to the Netherlands where she competed in the International Cup Championships.
She described the summer as “absolutely amazing” for a variety of reasons. Just two weeks after competing in the National Championships in Daytona Beach, Florida; Valentovic flew to Amsterdam, The Netherlands where she competed in the International Cup Championships on Team USA. To Valentovic, the International Cup Championships is a twirler’s Olympics.
Valentovic described this feeling stating, “hearing each country’s national anthem and seeing them wave their flags; you can’t help but feel like you’re at the Olympics.” The four day event was held in a large arena in Almere, a town outside Amsterdam, where over 1,000 twirlers competed from 15 different countries. The competition features the “best of the best” of each country. “Being down on the competition floor during open ceremonies with your country just gives you goose bumps,” said Valentovic.
There are many categories at the competition and many rounds where the twirlers re-compete in order to make it to the final 10. Valentovic received a Bronze medal in Three Baton, which is an event where athletes twirl three batons for an entire minute and half. Valentovic said words couldn’t describe the amount of the pride she felt when being announced as a USA Finalist, and how surreal it was to stand on the podium with a medal. “Competing at this prestigious competition is a huge honor alone, making finals is another huge goal, and bringing home a medal is even more of a bonus,” she said.
Before Valentovic could go to the International Cup Championships and earn her spot on Team USA, she had to try out and place in the top six of her age group events. This took place at the National Championships in Ohio during the summer of 2012. She has been a member of Team USA and competed at the international championship twice in 2011 and 2013. Since the International Cup Championships is every other year, the try outs to make Team USA are always the year before at Nationals. Valentovic looks forward to attending Nationals every year. “I always love seeing my friends from all over the USA and being pushed to do my best because there are so many talented twirlers there,” she said.
She always returns from Nationals being even more motivated than when she arrived. In addition to National and International Championships, Valentovic has also competed at local, state, and regional championships since the age of seven.
When at school, Valentovic practices her competition routines at the Mattioli Recreation Center on campus three times a week along with marching band practice twice a week. When the weather is nice, she’ll try to add in extra practice. When Valentovic is home, she practices every day for up to four hours. However, she wasn’t always this committed to twirling. When Valentovic was 11, she switched twirling coaches, and she wasn’t sure if she was going to continue to twirl. Instead, she became more serious about the sport.
Performing, meeting a lot of people, developing friendships, and experiencing different cultures are just some of Valentovic’s favorite things about twirling. “There are a lot of baton twirlers out there. However, when it comes down to it, it’s a small world,” she said. Throughout the years, she has developed friendships with twirlers not only in the USA but overseas as well. As far as the sparkly costumes she gets to wear, Valentovic states they’re “just a plus!”
Since she was a little girl, it was her goal to be able to twirl at a university. What attracted Valentovic to ESU so much was the opportunity to twirl at the university with the marching band. This is her second year being the feature twirler for the Warrior Marching Band.
Valentovic plans to continue competing throughout her college career. She enjoys being challenged to learn new, complicated tricks and is making it her goal to push for her personal best. When she graduates, she hopes to be able to focus on twirling in a different way through judging and coaching. “Baton twirling is a world that I will always stay involved in,” said Valentovic.
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