If you attended a Saints men’s or women’s basketball game this past winter, then you know there was no break in the action when the teams headed into the locker rooms at halftime. If you stayed in your seat during the intermission, you probably had the privilege of seeing the jaw-dropping dexterity of Emmanuel College freshman, Kayla Flaherty (Derry, N.H.). It’s no doubt that you were left standing and speechless after her astonishing 2-3 minute baton-twirling routine.
Flaherty, who will return for her sophomore year at Emmanuel this fall, has been recognized on the national level for her baton twirling since she was a young girl. A former seven-time national champion in various twirling categories, Flaherty once again placed among the nation’s best this summer.
After cruising to the top in her home state this winter, Flaherty was crowned 2012 Collegiate Miss Majorette of New Hampshire on February 5th. Sounds pretty cool, but what exactly does that mean. Simple. She’s the best in her state.
With New Hampshire’s highest twirling title in her back pocket, Flaherty advanced to the Regionals in June, where her top-three finish among New England’s top competitors earned her a spot in the national competition, Miss Majorette of America.
Miss Majorette of America was held at Notre Dame University last month and Flaherty’s twirling skills garnered the 18 year-old top-ten finishes in four different categories. Among her top individual placements were Flaherty’s 4th place finish in the World Open Two-Baton, her 5th place finish in the World Open Solo and her 8th place finish in World Open Strut. Additionally, she teamed up with duet partner Jordan Foster (Attleboro, Mass.) for the 2012 World Open Senior Duet Championship. Add another national championship to the Flaherty tally.
Flaherty, a 2011 graduate of Campbell High School (Litchfield, N.H.), was first introduced to baton twirling at age 6. She attended a twirling camp with her Derry, N.H. neighbor and “loved it.” Flaherty’s twirling career took off rapidly and she earned her first Miss Majorette title at age 7.
Competing as a member of the Gangi Baystate Strutters, a twirling company out of Woburn, Massachusetts, Flaherty takes private lessons every other week and competes once or twice each month.
In addition to competing on the regional and national levels, as well as her halftime routines at Emmanuel, Flaherty has also performed at some pretty incredible venues. All the while, she maintains her modesty and unassuming demeanor. Where has she performed? “At Disney World, at halftime of a couple Celtics games, in Peru as one of twelve selected to represent the United States at Lima’s International Spring Festival,” she shrugged. Not bad.
Flaherty chose Emmanuel “based on academics only.” Working toward a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Psychology, she was worried about transitioning to twirling in college. “My high school was so supportive of it and I didn’t know how Emmanuel would be towards it,” she said. After meeting with some of Emmanuel’s athletic administrators in the summer prior to her freshman year with the Saints, Flaherty was very excited that she would be able to continue her twirling career at Emmanuel.
“When approached by Kayla, I was absolutely open to the idea of having a featured baton twirler, but I could never have imagined how talented she is and how popular her performances would be,” commented Emmanuel's Director of Athletics Pam Roecker. “Saints fans and visiting fans alike constantly comment on our twirler. Kayla is amazing and her contribution to what we already consider a great basketball atmosphere is significant. I am thrilled to have her for three more years!”
Prior to Flaherty, Emmanuel never had a baton twirler representing the College. Flaherty not only twirls for the Saints, but she is also a standout on the Emmanuel Dance Team. Thus, her basketball halftime is even more action packed, including a song or two with the dance team, prior to her own twirling routine.
Flaherty has the unique ability to make her halftime performances at Emmanuel look effortless. Although she often has two and sometimes three batons in the air simultaneously, her routines are typically flawless. With her batons launched toward the lofty ceiling in Emmanuel’s Jean Yawkey Center, Flaherty has time to complete an array of spins, splits and flips, before catching the falling batons with ease.
In addition to the endless training and practice necessary to make her routines look easy, there is so much planning and preparation that goes into each and every stunt. “The first thing I do when I walk into a gym is test out the floor to see if it is sticky or slippery. I have two pairs of twirling shoes I have to decide between, one with grips on the bottom and one without,” noted Flaherty. She then spends some time considering the ceiling height and the lighting. “I look at the ceiling and never position myself directly under a light. The light reflects off the metal in the baton. I then decide exactly where I am going position myself before the routine and place my batons strategically on the floor.”
Unfortunately for Emmanuel and for Flaherty, the NCAA does not recognize twirling as a varsity sport. However, Flaherty certainly treats it as such. Along with her obvious varsity-level training, comes the unfortunate varsity-level injuries as well. Like members of each of Emmanuel’s 17 varsity athletic teams, Flaherty “stretches before and ices after.” Her twirling injuries have run the gamut from blisters and bruises to broken fingers and concussions. Back and knee injuries have been nagging and Kayla sees a chiropractor and the Emmanuel College Athletic Trainers regularly. What do you mean she isn’t a varsity athlete?
Looking back on her decision, Flaherty is more than happy with her college choice. “I love Emmanuel. It’s perfect. I love the people and the Dance Team. It’s in a perfect location. With so many other schools nearby, Emmanuel is small, but in an area with so much to do.”
While not only successfully enhancing interest and awareness for her sport, Kayla Flaherty has earned the respect of the entire Emmanuel community, including athletes and non-athletes, as well as students and staff. She may not be a "varsity athlete" at Emmanuel, but she is the College’s most decorated athlete.
Congratulations on another national title, Kayla!