Junior twirler Claudia Swauger is one of the first NC State twirlers to compete overseas. She participated in the World Federation of National Baton Twirling Association World Championships (WFNBTA), hosted in Eindhoven, Netherlands over the summer, capturing four gold medals.
“Yes, that was my fourth World Championship”
For Swauger, this was not her first rodeo as she has actually competed in three other world championships since she was nine years old. Swauger credits her older sister, Jillian, with bringing her into twirling from the start as Claudia aimed to beat out Jillian when she began her journey.
During her youth, Swauger captured many awards and championships. From her home in Niles, Ohio, she claimed Little Miss Majorette of the Great Lakes, Little Miss Majorette of Ohio, Juvenile Miss Majorette of Ohio and Pre-Teen Miss Majorette of Ohio. Her favorite title of them all was winning Miss Majorette of America in 2016.
“Miss Majorette of America is the biggest title that you can win in the NBTA,” Swauger said. “I was actually the youngest in the division [when I won].”
Swauger traveled to Switzerland in 2012, Italy in 2015 and Norway in 2018 for her three other World Baton Twirling Championships. She learned competing at nine years old and as a rising college junior are completely different in terms of mindset.
“I definitely feel more stressed this time because I think when I was younger, I didn’t really realize how big it was,” Swauger said. “They just told me to go out on the floor, and I went out and did my routine. This time I’m like, ‘This is a huge competition,’ and there’s a lot of people watching.”
Swauger actually qualified back in 2020 for the World Championships, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event wasn’t hosted until the summer of 2022. With the large break, a lot of pressure was on Swauger to show off her new skills and improved technique.
“It was kind of stressful; I felt more nervous this time than I have in the past,” Swauger said. “Everybody improved, and you want to show everybody that you’ve improved over time.”
At the event, Swauger captured the National 3-baton championship for the 20-year-old bracket. She also finished second in solo baton twirling and in X-strut, and she will participate in all three events in Liverpool, England.
Each year, the participating countries of the championships exchange gifts to each other. Some of Swauger’s favorite gifts she has received are the Belgian flag and a viking hat from Norway.
“We did get a Viking hat from Norway, so it has the Viking horns and everything,” Swauger said. “That was pretty cool.”
The Inaugural IBTF World Championships
Next year in England, the WFNBTA and the United States Twirling Association (USTA) will combine under one world championship: the International Baton Twirling Federation (IBTF) World Championships. Swauger qualified for Team USA with her efforts in the USTA National Championships prior to the WFNBTA World Championships.
Swauger has high hopes for the inaugural world championships in Liverpool. She aims to be a finalist in every event and even grab a medal from the high stakes competition.
“Since it is the first one, it’s so big,” Swauger said. “I just want to be able to say that I’ve been a finalist in all of the events that I’ve competed in. My ultimate goal would be to win a medal and be in the top three.”
Miss Majorette of America
One of Swauger’s proudest accomplishments is winning Miss Majorette of America. The competition consists of three parts: modeling with an interview, X-Strut and a solo show.
The modeling portion consists of an interview similar to Miss America, whereas X-strut is more body technique where the baton is never thrown.
“You don’t toss the baton at all; it’s more about technique and flexibility and baton movement instead of all the tricks that you can do underneath the baton,” Swauger said. “You do things like leaps, jumps, leg holds — that one’s really demanding on your body.”
Baton twirling can be very taxing on the body and requires a lot of physical components similar to gymnastics. Swauger explains that twirling involves flexibility, stamina and discipline to perform well on such a stage.
“You really just can’t think about it because if you get too in your head, it messes you up,” Swauger said. “You think about everything that you should be doing rather than what you can do and what you know you can do.”
The solo show is where the baton is thrown. For college students, twirlers are expected to perform with up to four batons, while younger students only need two. Swauger commented that she wants to try four batons on the field for NC State and continue to wow the crowd.
The Power Sound of the South
Swauger is a member of the NC State Marching Band, where she is one of four feature twirlers. With all of her accolades and accomplishments, being a feature twirler is still an amazing experience.
“I’d say I have more fun on the field,” Swauger said. “It’s just so much fun to be able to just go out there and do it.”
When asked what her favorite accomplishments were, she said winning Miss Majorette of America and being a feature twirler for NC State. “I also talk about when I got picked to be an NC State feature twirler… That was one of my main things that I’ll never forget.”
During halftime and pregame, the feature twirlers pull all sorts of stunts, not for points or for judges, but for the audience. Swauger appreciates all the reactions she gets when new people watch her perform, especially with the batons on fire.
All four feature twirlers practice together, both for NC State and competitively, and have knit a tight bond together. However, there was a time when they competed against each other instead of performing alongside each other.
“We’re very close because we are such a small group, but we also knew each other beforehand because I’ve competed with them my entire life,” Swauger said. “We’re all from the north, so all our competitions always clashed with each other, and I saw them everywhere… It’s a small world.”
Competition season doesn’t start until around January, so twirling for the Wolfpack is a perfect way for Swauger to practice, stay in shape and use her skills on a bigger stage. Twirling is an all-year activity because of marching band, but balancing school, competing and band can be quite challenging.
“Last year was the first time I’ve ever actually had to do that because of COVID,” Swauger said. “We didn’t have all of those aspects, and it was kind of hard to get in those practice times.”
Sophomore twirler Robbie Leske will also be going to the IBTF World Championships in the men’s division. He currently stands as the Men’s National Champion, according to Swauger, and joins her as the only NC State twirlers to enter the world stage.
Shoutout to Dr. Paul Garcia and Dr. Mark Whitfield
“I would like to thank Dr. Garcia and Dr. Whitfield for letting us compete competitively,” Swauger said in regards to NC State Band Director Dr. Paul Garcia and Assistant Band Director Dr. Mark Whitfield. “Without their permission, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”