While most of us were on vacation or grinding away at months of summer homework, senior Benjamin Zietz spent his summer preparing for the USA National Baton Twirling Championships, where he won second place and qualified for a spot on Team USA for the 2020 World Championships.
Zietz began baton twirling the summer before his sophomore year, after watching Northwood’s former baton twirler perform at a pep rally during his freshman year. He was inspired to take up the sport despite starting at such a late age.
“Most baton twirlers start when they’re four or five years old, so I had to catch up,” Zietz said.
During his junior year, Zietz began performing as the feature twirler for the marching band.
“There aren’t many performance opportunities for baton twirlers besides competing and performing at school events. Most people don’t know that baton twirling is a very competitive and demanding sport, and it requires a lot of athletic ability,” Zietz said.
Almost immediately after picking up the sport, Zietz began competing in local competitions, practicing, and preparing for larger events such as the California State Championships, All West Regional Championships, and the USA National Championships.
On the last week of July, Benjamin traveled to the USA National Championships, which were held at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. This year, nationals acted as a qualifier for the World Championships, which is held every three years. The World Championships, which is hosted by the World Federation of National Baton Twirling Associations (WFNBTA), will be held in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and features a competition format similar to that of the Olympics. Twirlers from around the world will be competing, including athletes from the United States, France, Norway, England, Canada, Russia and many other countries. In order to qualify for Team USA, Zietz needed to place in the top three in the advanced division.
“I will be representing Team USA at the World Championships for two baton, which is my favorite and strongest event,” Zietz said.
As the name suggests, the two baton category consists of the performer using two batons, which must be moving simultaneously throughout the entire routine. Zietz’s coach, Liane Aramaki, taught and choreographed the routines that he performed at nationals. With her help, Zietz trained during the school year and the summer, practicing his routines for six to eight hours a day. With the support of his family, coach, and friends, Zietz achieved a total score of 153.8 points, placing him second in the men’s junior two baton division and earning him a spot on Team USA.
Zietz also competed this summer at the International Baton Twirling Federation’s Grand Prix in early August, which was held in Limoges, France. He will attend the state competition in November and regionals in March before he attends the World Championships in April.
“Representing the United States is a great honor, and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity,” Zietz said. “There’s pressure placed on the Team USA athletes competing at the World Championships, but I’m more excited than nervous.”
The World Championships will be held next April in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Until then, Zietz can be seen performing and practicing with the Northwood Marching Band for their 2019 show “Queen.” Reflecting on his upcoming final season as the marching band’s feature twirler, he is grateful for the many opportunities baton twirling has given him, including the chance to share the sport he loves with Northwood when he performs under the Friday night lights.