Twirling to glory
Bridgeview girl takes her baton to nationals
By Steve Metsch
If things go as hoped, Sarah Shinsato will twirl her way to a national championship in South Bend.
The 16-year-old Bridgeview girl – who on July 17 brought to a village board meeting three trophies she won this summer – will compete in the baton national championships at the Joyce Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The event is set for July 23-27.
America’s Youth on Parade features the finest baton twirlers in the land. And one of those is Sarah, who picked up her first baton when she was 5 and joined the Bridgeview Starlets.
“I started dancing when I was 2 and a half, so I’ve been able to continue my dance as well. Baton has been a bit bigger for me, but I can continue to work on ballet. I like to continue to do both,” Sarah said.
Sarah won first place in the Midwest Regional Show Twirl at Bolingbrook High School in June; and won two first-place trophies the Illinois State Championships at Zion-Benton High School on July 13.
“Definitely very, very exciting,” Sarah said about winning the trophies.
Sarah won even though she is still hampered by a severe hamstring strain suffered in March 2018, a lingering injury that bothers her while doing the splits.
Sarah Shinsato hopes to win more trophies at nationals. Trustee Norma Pinion started the baton twirling club in 1975. Photo by Steve Metsch.
Sarah came to the village board meeting at the invitation of Village Trustee Norma Pinion.
It was Pinion who in 1975, while with the Bridgeview Youth Commission, started the Bridgeview Starlets. Pinion started the club “because there were so many baseball teams for boys and nothing for girls.”
“That’s the only thing I could think of” she said, recalling how the girls practiced at Bridgeview Elementary, the fire department, the village board room and the village garage. They now practice at the park district.
At the height of its popularity, the baton twirling club had 135 girls, she said.
“We started out with eight. And she was one of the eight,” Pinion said, gesturing toward Sarah’s mother, Donna.
“She started this. I just follow in her footsteps,” Sarah said.
Donna said her daughter “has surpassed me by leaps and bounds. She’s a much better twirler than I ever was.”
Pinion is hoping the club, now down to four girls, will be able to carry on.
Donna said that it is “hard to attract girls to do this” noting there are “so many other things now. When we started, girls didn’t have other sports.”
“And, baton twirling isn’t easy. You have to be really dedicated to get good at it. A lot of girls come in, they realize how much practice it takes, and they’re on to the next thing … If you don’t have the time to dedicate, you get discouraged easily,” Donna added.
Sarah is home-schooled, but will be twirling with the Argo High School Marching Band in the 2019-2020 school year. You can see her talents on display during home football games this season.
Asked how often she’s been conked in the head by her baton, Sarah laughed and said “you don’t want to know.”
She once suffered a split upper lip when a baton tossed by a teammate smacked Sarah in the mouth. Fortunately, she said, no teeth were broken.
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