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UW-Eau Claire baton twirler featured on national television


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Freshman criminal justice major Briar Swann was recently featured on The Real Winning Edge, a nationwide television series for accomplishing her goals in baton twirling and overcoming adversity.

Imagine having a childhood dream and achieving it before you have graduated college.

Now imagine a doctor advising you to give up your dream at risk of damaging your body.

For freshman criminal justice major Briar Swann, she has been living her dream for nearly a semester. Swann has had the goal of baton twirling for a school, specifically a marching band program, since she was a child.

After visiting campuses and considering what school might be the best fit for her, she and her dream were set on UW-Eau Claire.

“I knew how impressive their band was,” Swann said. “I always dreamt of twirling for a college, and I really have achieved my dream.”

The Real Winning Edge, a national television series about high school or college students who have overcome obstacles in their lives, came to Eau Claire in late September and featured Swann on the university’s campus. The program focused on Swann’s recovery and resurgence after her grandmother died.

Swann said Randy Dickerson, the director of the Blugold marching band was contacted by the show looking for a female athlete between the ages of 18 and 21 who was a good role model.

He recommended her to the show and the rest was history.

“They contacted lots of people around me,” Swann said. “They talked to my friends and included them in the segment.

Swann said the process took her out of her comfort zone, but she’s glad she participated.

“It was different,” Swann said. “I had never been interviewed and followed around and recorded like that before but it was fun. It really taught me that if you keep pushing to achieve your goals they’ll be recognized.”

With her dream already realized, Swann will continue working toward placing higher in competitions. Dating back to middle school, Swann wasn’t the competitive type; she found more enjoyment in representing her peers than in structured competitions.

“What really kept me twirling was my school twirling,” Swann said. “I hit middle school and started twirling at basketball games and I fell in love with it even more.”

She said it added a new element because twirling for her school was her focus, while her sisters preferred competition.

Swann’s stepmother, Dawn Haverfield-Swann, introduced her to baton twirling as a child. Haverfield-Swann said her family is proud of Swann’s accomplishments.

“Her dream was to come to Eau Claire,” Haverfield-Swann said. “It’s been her number one choice and her dream has came true. Once she made it, nothing could top it.”

While nothing could surpass it for Swann, Haverfield-Swann’s expectations have been surpassed watching Swann develop as a twirler.

“She’s a daredevil,” Haverfield-Swann said. “She will go for any trick and she will prove she can master it.

Haverfield-Swann said Swann’s determination is unmatched, and she doesn’t know anyone who incorporates such high-difficulty moves on the football field.

“Most twirlers do a little bit less than what they can do to try to make sure they don’t drop the baton,” Haverfield-Swann said. “Briar exceeds my expectations on the football field and goes for the most difficult tricks and catches because she isn’t afraid of anything.”

One thing Swann is afraid of is the limelight from performing in front of fans.

“It’s nerve-wracking especially when everyone is set in lines and I’m four steps ahead on the 50-yard line,” Swann said. “I feel a lot of pressure because I’m doing my own thing and everyone can lock on to me and might not understand if I mess up.”

Photo by Austin Mai

Swann compared a mistake such as dropping her baton to a basketball player missing a shot. She said her main focus is on catching the baton, and even if it’s not a clean catch, it’s caught.

The worst fear for Swann is knowing her twirling career may not end on her terms.

Haverfield-Swann knows what damage baton twirling can do to the body after she twirled for years. She said various injuries including concussions and damage to knees, ankles and the lower back occur often in adults after twirling.

“You’re pushing like a dancer and jumping like a gymnast,” Haverfield-Swann said. “Briar has had MRI’s on her back, hips and knees. Her physician did tell her that she should probably not twirl anymore. If she continues, she’s going to pay for it in the long run.”

She said adults often require hip and knee replacements after twirling.

This winter Swann is performing with the Blugold Athletic Band not only with her baton but playing cymbals as well. She hopes to continue twirling for Blugold bands until she no longer can physically.