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Local baton team twirls its way to Europe

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They started as members of three different clubs, but together they’ll be representing Canada at a major international baton twirling competition.

Team Toba, a group of eight athletes from Greendell, Magic ’n Motion and Aerial Fusion baton clubs, won its division at a qualifying event in Barrie, Ont., last month to earn a trip to the International Cup in Almere, Netherlands. The event will be held from Aug. 7 to 11 and will feature teams from about 20 countries.

Team Toba didn’t just bring together members of three clubs — it also formed a team ranging in age from 12 to 22.

Kayla Kamfoley, 22, is the team’s senior member and competed at the 2005 International Cup when it was held in Minneapolis. She stopped twirling last year, but decided to get back in the game for one more year when she heard that Team Toba was being formed.

"That was a very good decision," said the St. Vital resident. "We were pretty excited to find out we’re going (to Europe)."

Laura Tymchyshyn, 12, is the team’s youngest member. The St. Vital resident has been twirling since she was six years old, and said she never thought she’d have a chance to represent her country.

"I thought maybe I’d go to nationals, but nothing like this," she said.

As the alternate, Tymchyshyn won’t be performing unless something happens to one of her teammates, but in some ways her job might be the most difficult. Rather than just learning her own role, she needs to be able to step into any of the seven other parts of the team’s routine.

"I need to be prepared to be someone else," she said. "I’ve learned three parts so far, and even that’s a little hard. It’s easy to forget things."

Even if Tymchyshyn doesn’t get to perform for the judges, she knows the experience she gains from the trip will serve her well as her career continues.

Jennifer Atkinson, 17, competed in an event in Paris last year and is hoping that experience will help her in Almere.

"It’s definitely not easier than performing back home," said the St. Vital resident, "but it’s more fun because you meet so many people that love the sport."

Atkinson said the Paris trip taught her how to deal with audiences that can be much more boisterous than at a typical Canadian meet.

Team Toba’s routine could grab the attention of the judges with its "edginess" and "emotion," said Nikisah Hendrickson-Alexander, a 16-year-old team member from St. Boniface.

"I’m looking forward to seeing how different countries approach the sport," she said. "Some are going to be going for more of a happy feeling, but we’re more about attacking."

Leisha Strachan, a Fort Richmond resident who coaches the team with Jane Tan, Dana Peteleski and Kristin Macaraeg, said she’s been impressed with how well the team has come together since being formed last fall.

"You always want more time," she said. "It’s a challenge to combine different styles to make everyone look the same."

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