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Brandy Henoch, daughter of Larry and Pam Henoch, warms up before performing with the Sallna South High School marching band at the Sallna South vs. Salina Central football game. TOM DORSEY/The Salina Journal A twirling Cougar Award-winning Salina baton twirler fulfills dream before her high school band By CAROL UCHTI The Salina Journal S ince the second grade, Brandy Henoch knew •he wanted to be a baton twirler for her high school. "My goal was to lead the band," the 17-year-old said. "When I practiced, I would pretend the band was behind me." Now having the drum beat and high-stepping music of a marching band behind her is her favorite way to perform, even though she's won state and regional awards at twirling competitions. "There's just something about performing to band music and having a big band behind you," said the daughter of Larry and Pam Henoch, 816 Scott. It's a feeling she gets at home football games with the Salina South High School Marching Cougars band. As the band plays, she throws flaming batons, twirls ribbons and performs acrobatic stunts. After she throws her baton in the air, she might turn a cartwheel before catching it again. Henoch, a senior at South, is in her fourth year as twirler for the band. "When I made twirler, it meant everything to me," she said. "I'm to glad I stuck with it and did not quit. Batons are my life." In fact, she used to sleep with her batons — a habit it's good she gave up since she now has 15 and several knives. Henoch won the title of intermediate Miss Majorette for the West Central Region of the National Baton Twirling Association earlier this year. The region includes Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Winning that title qualified her to compete in the national Baton Twirling Association competition this summer, but an injury prevented her from attending. Before that, she won the state Miss Majorette for beginners and other state titles. While she enjoys the competitions and winning awards, her greatest reward comes at high school events. Betides football games, Henoch also performs at South's basketball games, where her batons sometimes hit the the gymnasium's 30-foot ceiling. When she's not twirling, Henoch is still in front of the crowd as a South High cheerleader. Having an audience doesn't bother her. "The more the merrier," Henoch said. "I don't get nervous at all." But a large audience of excited football fans isn't as frightening as catching rotating sticks with fire at both ends. But that doesn't bother Henocb either. "I like it because it warms me up when it's cold out/' she said. "I freeze down there." The cold and other aspects of the weather are the worst part of performing, especially in the wind, she said. "I have to adapt to the weather," Henoch taid. "You have to throw it into the wind. And the rain. I've proved that you can twirl in the rain." Twirling is an athletic event that demands a lot of technical skill and coordination, Henoch's coach and trainer Shannon Meis said. "They are athletes who undergo a lot of physical training," Meis said. "It demands a lot of hand strength and physical endurance." Meis, who operates Shannon's Stars of Salina Athletic Twirling Club, said Henoch has worked hard in the almost six years she's been training with her. "It's taken a lot of dedication for her to have gotten this far," Meis said. "She is diligent and practices every day." Henoch practices about three hours a day, working on coordinating her hands with her footwork. "Practice pays off," Henoch said. But it's hard on shoes. "I wear holes hi them from spinning," she said. All that practice makes for a busy day. She starts with band practice at 7:25 a.m., goes to school and attends cheerleading practice until 5:30 p.m. Then it's time for work at Braun's Fashion in the Central Mall. When she goes home at 9 p.m., it's time for homework. Getting good grades isn't a problem. "I'm in the National Honor Society at school," she said. "I make myself concentrate." And that's a skill twirling has helped her perfect. "It has given me confidence in myself," she said. "If I believe I can do it, I can."