When she was 8 years old, Victoria Massey ’16 was in tears after her first dance lesson. What many young girls do unquestioningly every week for years was not enjoyable to this shy girl from Selden, New York. Unhappy with dance, she accepted an invitation to join friends in an alternative after-school activity — baton twirling. Victoria tiptoed into her newfound art form and enrolled in a weekly class to learn basic skills.
Victoria had no idea that 14 years later she would find herself at the elite level. This past spring she won the National Baton Twirling Championships in Stockton, California, where she competed against 500 of the nation’s best sport baton twirlers.That win qualified her to be part of the U.S. team that competed in the 32nd World Baton Twirling Championships earlier this month in Nottingham, England, and took home the bronze medal.
The bronze medal is Victoria’s highest achievement to date, but the Stony Brook junior is no stranger to victory, as evidenced by the seven New York State trophies and 15 national cups she proudly displays in her home.
To qualify for the World Championships, a twirler must perform well at the U.S. trials in March, Victoria said.
“In fact, her performance has won the hearts and minds of all Seawolves,” said Victoria’s mentor and friend David Kahn, an assistant professor of mathematics at the Center for Science and Math Education.
At the World Championships, Victoria and her seven teammates went up against perennial powerhouses Japan, France and Italy and performed a routine they called the Black Widow Spider.
“We aspired to represent the strong, confident persona of the spider,” she said. Victoria and her teammates wore black costumes bearing a spider web design and performed to a narrative and musical score suggesting the “deadly dignity” of one of the world’s most feared arachnids, she said.
“Since the routine is three and a half minutes long, we sought to prove ourselves to be physically and mentally tough — characteristics of the black widow,” she said.
It was five years ago when Victoria, who is a Spanish and French double major, decided that she wanted to hone her skills and compete at an advanced level, so she sought the services of coach Alaine Robbins of Smithtown, New York.
“I owe much of my success to her,” said Victoria. “Within one year of having Alaine as my coach I was asked to be on a very prestigious team that would get me to the World Championships in 2012.” The team finished fourth in that competition.
When she is not part of a team, Victoria refines her skills as a solo performer. She has competed in six local competitions held annually on Long Island, the New York State championships in May, and various regional competitions, such as the Northeast Regional Championships in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, in June, and the Nationals, held every July in various locations.
Victoria’s solo events are the strut and dance twirl, which both combine body and baton movement. Her training regimen is rigorous, particularly in summer, the peak season when she practices at least five days per week for six to eight hours at a time in preparation for all the competitions held during that time of year.
“My biggest challenge in this sport is maintaining my high-level tricks,” Victoria said. “It isn’t easy finding a practice facility in the Long Island area with ceilings high enough for me to maintain my baton height of roughly 50 feet for tricks in the winter months.”
– by Glenn Jochum