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Staff Writer

TOWNSEND — In all athletic activities, there comes a point where the athlete is ready to compete.

Baton twirling is no different.

Caitlin Pinkham, 16, is preparing for a national twirling championship, America’s Youth on Parade (AYOP).

In its 42nd year, the championship, to be held at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana starting July 17, is considered one of the most prestigious twirling events in the country.

Pinkham has dedicated herself to baton twirling since she was 10. Taking lessons at Holly’s Bunch in Pepperell, Pinkham said she practices a lot.

While typically taking two scheduled classes at Holly’s a week, Pinkham rehearses even more at home.

“I tend to practice every day outside,” said Pinkham.

Since deciding to enter AYOP early this year, Pinkham has expanded her rehearsal schedule at Holly’s Bunch.

Coach and owner of Holly’s Bunch, Holly Morin, said it’s rare for one of her students to enter AYOP.

“I don’t have that many students that are that dedicated, or who want to put that much into it,” said Morin.

Pinkham is entered in four of the over 30 events at AYOP. The events are hoop, flag, one-baton, and two-baton twirling.

Pinkham is working with Morin to master a routine for each event.

There are strict guidelines about time limit and what’s expected in order to win.

Each event Morin has entered could have 40 girls performing their routines for 40 different judges at the same time, with results posted at the end.

“There will be top 10 placements in all of those events,” said Morin. “First place gets a trophy or plaque and second through 10th place gets a medal.”

After twirling for six years, Pinkham can’t remember how many times she’s been in a competitive setting.

Her mom, Maureen Pinkham, said she joins about five or six competitions a year.

The competitions have taken place throughout New England but nothing as large as AYOP, mom added.

Pinkham said she’s a little nervous but mostly excited.

“I just want to see where I place,” said Pinkham.

Pinkham said she loves twirling because of the reaction it gets from spectators. She also loves working with Morin.

Maureen said Holly’s Bunch supports its students.

“I heard about how great Holly was, and what a positive role model she was for girls,” said Maureen. “I came here, tried it out for a summer, and decided it was the right place to go.”

Maureen also twirls in a weekly adult class that is similar to an aerobics class.

“It’s a really positive environment,” she said.

Morin said that beyond learning to twirl and be healthy, her students form close friendships.

“I have kids that are done with college that still twirl, and keep in touch with each other,” said Morin.

Anyone interested in taking baton twirling lessons can contact Morin at Holly’s Bunch in Pepperell at (978) 433-9111.

Kim Kent, 20, from Pepperell, a featured twirler from UNH, will also be performing in the same events as Pinkham at AYOP.

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