Aug. 6—Two local high schoolers are tossing and twirling their way to championships.
Sisters Lily and Iris Hatchett, both students in Aiken County Public School District, recently competed in the National Baton Twirling Association's Grand National Championships at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
While there, the sisters brought home several first place finishes, top five, and top 10 finishes. Paramount Dance Twirl Team, their team, was also the Grand National Twirl Team Champions in the junior small and large divisions, the girls said.
"This was our team's first year winning the advanced category," Iris said. "We've won in beginner before, but this is the first team win in advanced."
"I won my solo category," Lily added.
Iris added that the team competed against more than 20 teams in the advanced category.
The NBTA Nationals trip was fun for the girls, with Lily saying it has people from across the nation.
"They all come and we all compete and we get to watch a lot of the collegiate girls," Lily said. "A lot of the college girls come and represent their universities and twirl."
Their mom Jamie Hatchett said she was very proud of her daughters.
"They put in a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of practice," Jamie said. "They make it look easy, but it's a lot of hard work that goes into it, so it's really neat to see them out there doing what they love to do."
Lily, a senior at South Aiken High School, said she started twirling five years ago after seeing one of her moms' students twirling at a football game.
"We said we really want to do this because there's a lot of glitter and sparkles and it's really cool," Lily said. "Then we contacted her and her mom and we got lessons, and then we were thrown into competing."
Iris started twirling after Lily got her into it because she was "lonely," Lily said. Iris has now been twirling for 4 1/2 years. The girls compete in multiple categories, including one baton, two baton, three baton, teams, duets, show twirl, and more.
When they aren't competing, the girls also twirl with the marching band at South Aiken High School. In fact, the girls said they are the only twirlers in Aiken County schools.
"I love it," Lily said. "It's fun to get to twirl in front of other people."
SAHS marching band director Neil Nelson said he's glad the girls are being recognized and they bring something special to the band.
"Many marching bands like ours don't have baton twirls anymore, so it kind of makes our group unique, and they're such good performers that it just adds a whole level to our band," Nelson said. "Very proud of them and glad they are with us."
After high school, Lily said she is hoping she can twirl in college, but Iris hasn't decided what she'll do yet.
"When she (Lily) is gone I'll probably still twirl with the band, but I don't know if I'm going to twirl in college," Iris said.