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Baton Twirling Champs Strut Their Stuff All the Way to Nationals, Internationals

Valley Baton Club at the Campbell Community Center has a history of recognition, both nationally and internationally.

A group of girls glide around the gymnasium floor, doing cartwheels and struts in glittery outfits, all while twirling batons around their bodies and through the air.

It's like watching professional basketball players, if they were mostly young girls and had sticks instead of basketballs. Both require talent, skill and dedication.

The Valley Baton Club, which has practiced at the for the last 31 years, nurtures this talent and love of the sport for youth as young as 2 all the way up to 19.

The competitive team, made up of eight girls, is heading to nationals in Little Rock, AR, July 11-16 and to the World Baton Twirling Federation 2011 International Cup in Jacksonville, FL, Aug. 1-8.

The sport includes elements of dance and gymnastics, and like most sports demands dedication and practice, says club founder and director Sharon Campbell.

Campbell's ties go back to her own youth when she watched others twirl.

"Back in the 1950s, I was in high school, and baton twirling was at its most popular," Campbell says. "There weren't many sports available to girls, and my high school band and twirling group was very good. I told a girlfriend of mine, 'I want to do that.'"

After finishing school, Campbell realized she couldn't put down the baton.

"It was something I didn't want to give up," she says.

So Campbell approached the city as a contractor for the Campbell Community Center when it was converted from a high school, back in 1981, and hasn't looked back since.

The club offers both competitive as well as recreational twirling at the community center, and youth from Campbell, Los Gatos, San Jose, Sunnyvale and as far away as Gilroy come out every week to practice.

"The recreational program is where we hypothetically teach them to learn to love twirling," Campbell says.

Campbell now runs the program with her daughter, Paige Campbell.

"I personally got my daughter involved in the recreational program when she was 7," says parent, Kathryn Read, whose daughter, Brooke, is part of the competitive team.

"She had seen a girl at her school do a little routine, so I asked that mom where she took lessons. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not far away at the Campbell Community Center!"

It's been eight years since she got involved.

"She took to it, stuck with it and is now very committed to it as 'her sport,'" Read says of her daughter. "And this is pretty much the story of all the girls. We are drawn to the excitement and uniqueness of it. We love that it combines the stamina of dance, the difficulty of tumbling, the concentration of juggling and the beauty of ice skating."

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