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Purdue Twirlers Earn Team, Individual National Titles

Golden Girl Kaitlyn Schleis (pictured) won the 2019 Grand National Collegiate Solo Champion title.

Purdue University Twirling performed with distinction at the 2019 USA Twirling National Championships, winning a pair of titles.

The Purdue Twirlers earned the 2019 Grand National Collegiate Halftime Show Team championship. The routine honored the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and Purdue’s sesquicentennial.

“It was so special to represent such a huge part of Purdue’s history,” said Mackenzie Joefreda, captain of the All-American Twirling Team. “We put together a mix of space-themed songs, including ‘Fly Me to the Moon,’ ‘Space Jam,’ and ‘Rocket Man,’ wore space-themed costumes and created props to go along with the theme as well. There was also a dance part of our routine, which is fun for us as most of us have dance backgrounds too.”

The championship routine featured a combination of the All-American Twirling Team and all five Purdue Solo Twirlers. The team began work on their nationals routine in February, practicing together twice a week for the duration of the spring semester. This left three months before the national event in July, during which members of the team practiced on their own and met back on campus on two occasions to continue preparation.

In addition to the prestigious title, the twirlers were also each awarded with a scholarship.

Individually, Golden Girl Kaitlyn Schleis won the 2019 Grand National Collegiate Solo Champion title. Schleis topped a field made up of more than 100 collegiate participants from schools around the nation. For Schleis, the championship represented the culmination of 18 years of dedication to twirling.

“It was just a surreal moment that all the hard work I’ve put in from three years old until 21 has paid off,” said Schleis. “There were a lot of days where I wondered if this was even worth it or possible. That moment was the validation.”

Schleis says she typically practices 2–4 hours every day during the school year and ramps up her efforts to 8–10 hours per day once the summer begins. She began developing her routine in April, incorporating her signature moves and style into a segment that satisfied judging requirements. One of Schleis’ signature moves involves a three-baton pickup.

“I have two batons on the ground and I push them so they roll around in a circle,” said Schleis. “They roll back to me and the I pick them up and start to baton. When I do it, people always think I made a mistake and then, all of a sudden, the batons just come right back to me.”

The winning performance came at the end of an exhausting day that saw Schleis compete in 12 events. For her efforts, Schleis was awarded the $2500 Susan Dailey Orr Scholarship and received a traveling, seven-foot tall trophy.

Members of Purdue Twirling who competed in the championship include: Joefreda (Team Captain), Schleis (Golden Girl), Amanda Coy (Girl-in-Black), Alicia Dennie (Miss Boilerette), Alexis Piskulic and Brooke Wyatt (Silver Twins), Emma Schafer (Co-Captain), Marin Parker, Ashley Brazeau, and Leah DePasquale.

This story was originally published in our Perspectives publication in the Fall of 2019. To view the full issue, please visit our Perpectives page.