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Pride of Oklahoma feature baton twirler garners international recognition

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USA twirling team

The 2022 USA Baton Twirling team. Photo provided by Emily Perkins.

This past summer the University of Oklahoma’s very own feature baton twirler, Emily Perkins, traveled overseas where she competed to bring home her fourth world-level silver medal.

The World Baton Twirling Federation is a distinguished organization founded in 1977 to give baton twirlers a chance to compete at an international level. They have now been active for over 40 years, with the most recent competition being held in Turin, Italy.

Perkins initially planned on turning down the offer to join the United States Twirling Association team. At the time, she had planned on retiring from twirling and thought her collegiate competition days were behind her. After giving it some thought, however, she accepted the invitation, joining the ranks of many other talented twirlers from all around the country.

“For me, this was kind of my last hurrah,” Perkins said. “I wanted to go out with a bang, I guess!”

This was not Perkins' first medal-earning recognition. In 2019, Perkins won the distinguished title of Grand National Collegiate Champion at the U.S. National Baton Twirling Championship.

This is Perkins’ seventh year as the Pride of Oklahoma’s feature twirler, but her history with the sport goes back even further. Beginning lessons at the age of 6 in her hometown of Houston, the young girl started down a path that would eventually lead her to the WBTF World Championships. 

As a current master's student at OU, Perkins plans to continue coaching after graduation. Her company, the Oklahoma Baton Twirling Academy, offers lessons to students ages 5 and up. She says her love for coaching and watching her students grow over the years is what has pushed her to retire from competition and focus on her professional endeavors. 

Brian Britt, director of the Pride of Oklahoma, talked about Perkins and the effect her success has had on their team.

“Emily is the consummate professional,” said Britt. “She has been a wonderful team member and she has world-class twirling and performance skills that connect with our audience.”

Although things have certainly been looking up as of late, the last few years have been difficult and uncertain for many people with the rise of COVID-19, including performers. In 2020, the Pride of Oklahoma faced an empty stadium that starkly contrasted the usual excited and rowdy fans who attend OU’s football games.

Perkins said she is excited to perform for a massive crowd yet again this fall, where she will take her place in the iconic role of feature twirler for the Pride.

“It's the most fun I ever have in my life to perform in front of the audiences here,” Perkins said. “It's something I’ve always wanted to do. Coming back to it is just so amazing, and I am so excited for this season!”

Perkins was back on the field Saturday, Sept. 3, performing with the Pride of Oklahoma at the OU-UTEP game. She dazzled the crowd with amazing grace and energy once again, showing OU fans what makes the sport of baton twirling so special.

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