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12 locals place at national twirling championships

PHOTO PROVIDED Shown in the back row is Jasmine McCulley, who competed in all adv. categories for the first time and placed 10th in three-baton, and Avery Soltesz (beginner national two-baton champion). In the front are Raylyn Proctor (beginner Miss Majorette of America, age 7-9 and nov. national strut champion age 9) and Aviana Shellman (first-place strut portion intermediate Miss Majorette of America pageant).

In the first National Twirling Championships in two years, 12 local athletes placed in the Top 10 for multiple events at Notre Dame University. Of the 12 competitors, there were five who took first-place finishes in certain categories.

Colbie Bellomy, Leah Wetzel, Avery Soltesz, Jasmine McCulley, Anabelle Bender, Bentley McNett, Raylyn Proctor, Aviana Shellman, Madyson Owens, Hayden Bender and Kaylee Weaver all represented north central Pennsylvania at the national championships.

“It was late spring when they decided it was a go,” said Alana Jones, who coaches the dozen and more year round. “I was supposed to take 24 kids, but we had a really great week of individual winners.”

Bender took first in two age 9 events, the beginner’s strut and the show twirl, the latter being an advanced-level division.

Like Bender, Proctor won two events as well. Representing the state of Pennsylvania — as each state gets one representative in the Beginner Miss Majorette of America pageant — the Mill Hall native finished first in her modeling strut and solo one-baton. Proctor also won the novice 9-year-old strut.

Warrior Run’s Soltesz was crowned the national champion in the beginner two-baton. Wetzel, a Muncy native, took gold in the age 13 intermediate national strut championship. Shellman placed first in the Intermediate strut portion of the Miss Majorette of America pageant.

“It was really good. That’s our culminating competition for the year, the national championships,” Jones said. “Without having it last year, we ended up at a competition in South Carolina. I picked one that was a little bit farther distance just to get an idea of who’s down south for us to compete against. It was really great to be back after two years of no competition. I think the kids really enjoyed it and they had a great week.”

Jones, a National and World Champion baton twirler herself, coaches area athletes all year at Phillips Fancy Footwork, where she owns three studios in South Williamsport, Muncy and Jersey Shore. Athletes from Mill Hall to Muncy train at the studios.

Coach Trish Weaver also made the trip to Notre Dame University for the National Twirling Championships.

“There are three levels — beginner, intermediate and advanced — and we’re all heading toward the upper levels now,” Jones said. “Everyone that won these national championships moves up a level. Some of them will move into the advanced divisions and we’ll be working towards that.”

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