Local baton twirler competes in second world championship

Twirl2WBetsy Stein

Bowie teen Maddie Long has been a world champion not once, but twice in the little-known sport of baton twirling.

Twirling is not just something performed in parades; it's a competitive and challenging sport that requires artistry and athleticism. And Maddie has been to the World Baton Twirling Federation's World Championships, first in 2012 and again this past April.

In 2012, she competed in Switzerland and won silver and bronze in two individual events and a gold in the junior twirl with her team. Last month she competed in Italy and won a bronze in her individual event, silver in a duet and gold in the the junior dance twirl with her team.

Maddie's mom, Jennifer Lambert, was a twirler as a child and noticed early on that Maddie seemed to be a natural. So when Maddie was 3, she took her to the team she twirled for, the Dynamics in Elkridge, and Maddie has been twirling ever since.

"It's my favorite thing to do," says the 14-year-old, who is home schooled. "I've loved it since I first picked up a baton, and I never really stopped."

Maddie practices 10 hours a week at Dynamics — Monday nights and all day on Saturday. The schedule is condensed to accommodate team members from as far away as Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Maddie isn't sure how much longer she will be able to compete. She has been struggling with hip pain for three years, and shortly after Nationals last fall, she was diagnosed with dysplasia. She is having surgery this month to reshape her bones, smooth them and repair a tear.

"I can only hope and pray that I can continue my twirling career after surgery," she says. "My ultimate goal is to twirl at a university."

Maddie asked if the surgery could be put off until after the world championships so she could compete with her team.

"Maddie Long is amazing," says her coach, Linda Alford, director of the Dynamics. "She is the perfect example of an excellent athlete. Maddie is focused, hard-working and accepts nothing less than perfection."

If all goes well, you might see Maddie twirling with a college band one day. And after that, she might go on to become a doctor or a physical therapist.

"I'd like to help people who are going through what I've gone though," she says.