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Paschal’s Feature Twirler Wins National Awards

posted Aug 20, 2013, 6:24 AM by Karen Perkins   [ updated Aug 20, 2013, 6:29 AM ]

                  FORT WORTH – When Paschal High School’s award-winning Mighty Panther Band marches onto the field at halftime this fall, they will be joined again by feature twirler Haylee Castagna.  Castagna’s 3-baton routine and acrobatic feats are well known to the Paschal home crowd.  But what the fans in the stands may not know is that Castagna is ranked 1st in Texas and 7th nationally among twirlers.

                  "I really enjoy performing for my fellow students and entertaining the Paschal crowd!” says Castagna.  “It’s an honor to represent Paschal when I travel to other area competitions." 

                  Earlier this summer, Castagna competed at the prestigious National Baton Twirler Association’s (NBTA) national pageant, placing 7th in the 2-baton category and 28th with her solo baton routine.  The 5-day competition, held on the Notre Dame University campus, attracts top male and female twirlers from around the world.  Castagna, a junior at Paschal, earned her shot at nationals by placing  1st with her solo routine, 1st in 2-baton, and 2nd overall at the NBTA’s Southwest Regional contest.  Prior to regionals, she earned a 1st place award sweep at the Texas State contest, earning the top trophies in solo, 2-baton and best overall twirler categories at the Texas State contest.  Last summer she even went to the Junior Olympics, earning two golds and one silver at that international competition.

                  “Haylee does a lot of her competition tricks on the field during halftime shows,” says Vicki Ray, Castagna’s private twirling coach for the past 12 years.   Castagna started the sport as a 4 year old, winning her first twirling trophy as “Miss Snowflake” at an Arlington competition in 2001.

                  Twirling talent runs in Castagna’s blood.  Her mother Heather Castagna was an award-winning high school twirler, also taking private lessons from Ray.

                  “The tricks {today} are a lot more difficult than they were in the 80s,” said Heather Castagna.

                  Haylee Castagna says that her favorite thing about twirling is that “you meet people from across the country, and the friendships.”  She adds, “I’ve known some of these girls since we were four, and we’ve grown up together.”

                  After twirling during fall football halftime shows with Paschal, Castagna competes in baton competitions from January through July.  She trains five days per week, either at Paschal as part of the band’s Colorguard, or at the gym.

                  “The sport really teaches you discipline and time management,” says Heather Castagna, who earned a law degree from Texas Tech and now manages the Doss Heritage and Culture Center in Weatherford.  She says that many of the twirlers she competed against in high school have gone on to earn medical degrees or law degrees.

                  “Twirling is a sport where you learn so many life lessons,” adds Ray.

                  At Paschal football halftime this fall, look for Castagna to perform her 3-baton routine, including her “high toss-cartwheel-catch,” a baton high throw-cartwheel-baton catch combination.  This fall she is perfecting her high toss-walkover combination.  Her record throw is a 7-turn spin, when she hurls the baton in the air, spins seven times, and catches the baton on its way down. 

Ray and Castagna agree that choreographing a baton routine is a combination of dance and science.  “It is a lot of physics,” says Ray, when determining how to propel the baton and keep it in motion during acrobatic and dance sequences.

“My job {at halftime} is to portray the theme of the show through movement and playing my character,” says Castagna.

As for future plans, Castagna will continue as Paschal’s feature twirler, and compete during spring and summer in twirling pageants.  She hopes to be a feature twirler in college as well.  This year at Paschal, Castagna is enrolled in all honors courses and two AP courses.

“College twirling spots are so competitive,” says Castagna.  “Some schools only have one twirler, so that spot could be filled for four years.”

Until then, you can see Castagna and her award-winning routines this fall at Paschal football halftime shows.  You can’t miss her.  She’ll be the one throwing the baton in the air, spinning seven times, and catching the baton  on its way down.