Local Teen Gets The Chance To Compete On The National Stage

Catherine O’Neil

Wellington High School student Catherine O’Neil finished first in Florida’s 2023 NBTA Beginner Pageant in April, securing the right to represent Florida at the American Youth on Parade (AYOP) Beginner Pageant this coming July. AYOP is the official title for the annual National Baton Twirlers Association’s national level competition.

As any competitive athlete or family involved in youth sports can tell you, there can be many costs involved when you reach a certain level. You have talent, potential and you’re on the right road, but you still have quite a distance to travel, and you’re not yet being chased down for product endorsements or corporate sponsorships. You’re hoping to be seen and score college scholarships. In hopes of mitigating the financial strain, O’Neil’s family has organized a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs associated with competition this summer. Anyone who is able to contribute can donate at https://gofund.me/6b9e4a05.

O’Neil is a majorette with the Mighty Wolverine Sound, Wellington High School’s marching band, and traveled to England this past winter with the band, when they had the honor of performing in the London New Year’s Day Parade. She began twirling in 2018 through the Solid Gold Twirlers, in which she continues to participate.

Solid Gold is a nonprofit organization that has operated in the western communities under the guidance of head coach Debbey Cramer for more than 30 years. Anyone from kindergarten on up that is interested can find more information about the Solid Gold Twirlers at www.solidgoldtwirlers.com. Registration for summer session classes, held at Royal Palm Beach High School, is available through the Adult & Community Education programs of the Palm Beach County School District.

O’Neil’s participation in the Beginner Pageant is part of the 71st annual National Majorette Contest, which is for beginner and intermediate-level twirlers and is one of the NBTA’s “Biggest Four Events of the Year.” The other three events of this year’s AYOP are the 76th annual Miss Majorette of America Pageant reserved for advanced level only, the 42nd annual Collegiate Championship, and the Corps and Teams of America Championships. AYOP occurs annually at Notre Dame University. It is “baton twirling’s most prestigious event of the year” and is often called the “World Series of Baton Twirling.”