We Are LaVergne: Erica & Melissa

Have you ever seen those “Welcome” signs that greet people entering cities?  Sometimes they’ll say, “Hometown of …” and their famous person or distinguished person or the name of a person who’s accomplished a lot would go there.   If we had a sign like that in LaVergne, ours could read:

Welcome to La Vergne!
Hometown of Miss Tennessee of Baton Twirling
and Junior Miss Tennessee of Baton Twirling

This is a wonderful thing in which our community should take pride – that two hometown girls are state queens.  Erica King is Miss Tennessee of Baton Twirling and has been twirling for 5 1/2 years.  Melissa Tyson (yes I’m proud to say she’s my daughter) is Junior Miss Tennessee of Baton Twirling and has twirled for 4 1/2 years.

When the girls competed for their titles the year before being crowned queens, the results weren’t so great.  But they both spent a year practicing their routines in preparation for the next competition, and both girls won!  Melissa went from fourth to first place and  Erica beat a competitor who had been twirling for 13 years.  The competition includes dance twirl, strut, twirl, interview, talent and modeling.

Both learned their basic routines and modeling when they took their first classes in La Vergne.  Erica will be the teacher for the beginner baton class for the city and would like to see a class form this fall, held in the municipal building behind city hall and next to the ball fields.   Melissa thinks parent should encourage their daughters to try baton because it teaches great hand-eye coordination, plus it keeps a person physically fit with the dance moves and gymnastics that are involved.

Another reason our local royalty like baton is for friendships that are formed throughout the state, as well as the national and world travel opportunities.  In 2008, the Tennessee Twirlers were invited to participate in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San Diego and Erica was able to go.  She also traveled to Daytona Beach that year for the national championships.  Both Melissa and Erica traveled to Orlando last summer for the regional competition, where their team “Right Now” won first place.

Erica and Melissa will be going to Savannah this summer to compete in the USTA National Championships with their large dance twirl team called “Sister Act”.   Other twirlers have traveled to Australia, Canada, Italy, and other places around the world.  In fact, their team coach Glenn Bittenbender is an International Twirling Champion.

In addition to taking trips with their baton team, Erica and Melissa both enjoy twirling the fire baton.  Only grand champions are allowed to twirl fire in parades, but all brave advanced twirlers (with good hand/eye coordination) have the opportunity at camp to try it.  Summer camp is held every year at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee and is open to both beginning students who’ve never even touched a baton all the way up to advanced students.  The camp is scheduled June 1st – 5th and costs $310 which includes four nights lodging, 12 meals in the college cafeteria, instruction and classes, gymnasium fees, activity fees, and dorm mother and a nurse to take care of the twirlers.  If you’re interested Baton Camp, go here and click the Summer Camp 2010 link in the left hand column.

I did ask both girls what they thought about LaVergne.  Erica felt overcrowding was a big problem at LaVergne High School, and Melissa added that a lot of time is spent stopped because the hallways are always packed with too many people trying to fit through the doorways.  Erica wishes their school was like the schools you see on TV, where students have more freedom and you don’t just go from class to class and attend really short pep rallies.  Both believe teachers should focus more on teaching rather than on what students are wearing and whether the clothes meet the dress code.

Both Melissa and Erica want more activities outside of school, as well.  They’d love to see a shopping center or mall in LaVergne.  They also think LaVergne would benefit from having a laser tag facility, along with more playgrounds and parks.

The queens suggested that the city concentrate on cleaning around the lake down Jones Mill Road.  The whole area is covered with litter and other debris.  Erica said the boat launch area at night is scary and wishes there were more street lights, as well as painted lines down the road.

Great ideas, all of them!

If your son or daughter is interested in taking a baton twirling class in Middle Tennessee, classes are available in Clarksville, Murfreesboro, LaVergne, Madison, and Bellevue.  In addition, classes are also held in the Memphis area.  Contact Niki Davis Loovis, the area coordinator of the Tennessee Twirlers, for more information.  She can be reached through email:   missniki20 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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