The first trip to the national twirling championships was a complete shock for Marlene Sand Torres.
“Golly! What is all this about?” Torres said Thursday morning inside Bowie Junior High School’s auditorium as her 19-year-old daughter Mattison looked on smiling.
On Sunday, mother and daughter will travel to South Bend, Ind., to the University of Notre Dame’s campus for Mattison’s ninth time competing on the national level.
It will be Mattison’s final competition at the Miss Majorette of American Pageant — and at the mention, Mattison got choked up. A chain reaction ensued and Marlene stepped away for a moment.
“It’s bittersweet,” Mattison, an Odessa High grad, said. “It’s been a huge part of my life, of our lives.”
Mattison, the only daughter to Matt and Marlene, spent much of her childhood hanging around baseball fields for her two brothers’ games.
“At all the Little League games she would bring her baton,” Marlene said.
To which Mattison began to twirl in a rather lackadaisical stance. “This is fun,” she said sarcastically about hanging at the games. Because of the few (four to five) competitions each year for twirling, it was a special bonding experience for the mother and daughter.
And as Mattison (the current “College Miss Majorette of the Southwest”) moves on from competitive twirling to focus on business school at Baylor University, she won’t give up the baton; she holds the distinction of golden girl feature twirler for Baylor. She’s going on 15 years of twirling now.
“It’s really fun running out of the tunnel before the football players,” Mattison said.
“And hearing your friends yell for you from the stands, it’s just a good time. I always wanted to go to a Big 12 college and twirl.”
A residual perk of twirling — beyond developing a strong work ethic, self-discipline, grace, poise and confidence (and perhaps a way to impress people at a party) — are the friends made along the way. From UCLA to Michigan, Mattison loves that she has friends across the country that she’s met and competed against along the way.
“This is my thing. I really believe not anyone can pick up a baton. You have to love it,” she said.
Her mom, a former twirler at Permian High School and now coach, Babes with Batons director and certified judge, describes twirling as an interesting dynamic of sport and art.
“Each routine is an individual expression and also takes such athleticism,” she said.
Showing off their own flair on Thursday morning were two other locals — Lyndzie Allbright and Hali Tavarez — who have each earned their first trips to Notre Dame to compete at nationals.
Allbright, 18, a recent Permian High graduate and now soon-to-be Texas Tech twirler, won the “Beginner Miss Majorette of the Southwest” title in April which makes her eligible for the national contest. She will be a freshman majorette at Tech in the fall. Allbright twirled for three years at Permian after getting the baton bug at Bonham Junior High. She’s overjoyed to have the opportunity to compete and to twirl for Tech, too.
“The first football game every year is nerve-wracking, but once you see the rest of the line it calms me down,” Allbright said. Coaching by Torres really pushed her to the next level, along with learning from Mattison.
“She’s a great coach, like a second mom. I can talk to her about anything,” Allbright said.
Tavarez, 10, feels the same way.
“I like how she teaches. (The girls) are all very helpful and nice,” she said.
Tavarez is a novice to twirling, picking up a baton just a few months ago. She and a friend would practice routines on a “fake team” Tavarez called it, throwing the baton high into the air outside. On a whim, she went to a twirling practice with her neighbor and Torres called Tavarez’s mom to say “in four weeks you’re going to a competition,” she said, mimicking the phone call. It’s already exposed her to new (and really exciting) experiences: Sunday will be the very first plane ride for Tavarez.
She gave up dance class for whipping the baton around and around for now.
“If I was in dance and in twirling, I’d have to go back and forth, back and forth,” Tavarez, the “Beginner Miss Majorette of Texas” said as she sat cross-legged on the ground, a baton on each side. “I need some free time!” she said with a grin.
“The way it feels to hold the baton, how it feels in my hand. It feels so good,” Tavarez said, who will be in fifth grade at Reagan Elementary this fall. “This is what I want to be doing.”
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