By Karen Billing
Ashley Falls student Shireen Heidari recently twirled her way to the title of Miss Pre-teen Majorette of North San Diego County 2013.
Shireen, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Ashley Falls, is talented and poised with a baton in hand, having started practicing the art of twirling when she was just 5 years old.
Shireen got a handle on twirling naturally but she admits it isn’t easy.
“You have to have a perfect angle when you toss it in the air,” Shireen said. “The hardest thing is twirling around and catching it.”
She is working on a new trick where she completes two spins before catching the baton — right now she is working through a lot of baton drops until she gets it right.
“My coach tells me if you drop it you just pick it up and keep smiling,” Shireen said.
Shireen became interested in the activity through Chery Knapp, the director of admissions and operations at her old school, Country Montessori, who taught baton at the YMCA in Escondido and Rancho Penasquitos for over 30 years.
Shireen takes class at the YMCA once a week and participates in competitions, racking up a table full of trophies in twirling, strut (marching) and modeling. In modeling, she has to walk with her feet in a certain position, be natural, smile a lot and give a speech to the judges.
Last year she was crowned Miss Majorette Jr. and this year she was on stage crowning the new winner when she heard her name called as the winner of Miss Pre-teen.
“This time was a surprise, I was really shocked because there was another girl in my division who was really good,” Shireen said.
“It’s always very exciting when she wins and I’m very happy but I always feel a little sad for the other girls,” her mom Constance said. “I wish everybody could win because they work really hard.”
Twirlers move through the age divisions of Heartbreakers, Sweethearts, Diamonds and Dazzlers.
The Dazzlers, the oldest group that toss fire batons, is Shireen’s ultimate goal.
“The Dazzlers do amazing tricks that I feel I can never do but I tell myself if I keep going as I get older I’ll get a lot better,” Shireen said.
This summer she will twirl in a show at a San Diego Padres game and in a Fourth of July parade in Escondido.
In addition to twirling, Shireen also hones her acting skills with Scripps Performing Arts Academy, participating in several workshops and productions.
The giant Miss Pre-teen Majorette trophy currently sits in her living room, so big it dwarfs Shireen. She will have to return it when her year is up but hopes to earn a new one to take its place.