Who Knew?

There's a Baton Twirling World Championship, and an Athlete From Sarasota Just Competed in It

Sarasota's Samantha Merigliano and her team Forte represented the United States in the global competition held in Liverpool, England.

By Emma Moneuse September 21, 2023

Samantha Merigliano

Samantha Merigliano

Samantha Merigliano is a Florida State University majorette, a Sarasota local and now a placing competitor in the International Baton Twirling Federation’s world championships. The competition, which was held last month in Liverpool, England, was the first global contest for the federation and featured 21 teams from across the world. Merigliano and her Georgia-based team Forte competed across the pond and left with a fifth-place finish.

A graduate of Braden River High School who twirled for Lakewood Ranch before she went on to represent Florida State, Merigliano has been twirling since she was just 7 years old. She says she fell in love with sport the first time she tried it.

“I love the adrenaline rush I get when I run onto the floor and hear people cheering for our team,” Merigliano says. “Performing for fans and hearing them support us is what makes this sport so special to me.”

Merigliano (far right), with her teammates.

A lot of people may not know what goes into twirling at Merigliano’s level.

“It’s not just throwing a metal stick,” she says. “The amount of training that goes into competitive twirling is hard to explain. It’s something you really have to work hard for to get as far as our team did.” According to Merigliano, cardio is the most important aspect of twirling. Her team’s performance lasted 4 minutes and 30 seconds, with nonstop action, so it required a lot of stamina.

The 12-person Forte team competed in Liverpool in a category called "Artistic Group," which focuses on entertainment. The teams were scored on "general effect," "choreography and design," "baton" and "body," with penalties for baton drops. Forte earned a total score of 61.2 out of 100.

The team's performance was inspired by 1980s aerobic videos, but modernized with a body-positive focus. Since Forte is based in Georgia, the team was only able to meet once a month, making training sessions extremely important. They lasted on average from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Merigliano, baton training consists of performing routines until they are perfect and doing conditioning exercises designed to build strength and endurance. To join Forte, Merigliano had to audition alongside dozens of other twirlers. “It took a combination of the right skill, attitude and technique to make the team,” she says.

Merigliano keeps a tight schedule as a student athlete and international competitor, but says all the work has been worth it. “It was life-changing wearing a team USA uniform, and something I never thought I’d get to experience,” she says.

By the end of the competition, Merigliano felt proud and excited to return to Sarasota. “Getting to come home and say we were fifth was really rewarding," she says. "My friends and family were all so proud.”

For Merigliano, competing in the world championship was the end of her twirling career. She decided to go out with a bang. “I’m happy I got to go out that way,” she says.

Although the recent championship was Merigliano’s last competition, the International Baton Twirling Federation's next tournament is already scheduled to take place in Sweden in August 2024. Wherever the sport goes next, Merigliano will forever be a part of baton twirling history.

Filed under
Show Comments