Give it a whirl: Alumni will join Eastern’s baton twirler

Nicci+Colucy+performs+with+the+Panther+Marching+Band+during+the+Panthers+home+game+against+Eastern+Kentucky+on+Sept.+28+2013+at+OBrien+Field.

Jason Howell

Nicci Colucy performs with the Panther Marching Band during the Panthers’ home game against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 28 2013 at O’Brien Field.

Bob Galuski, Editor-in-Chief

Nicola Colucy has a hard time remembering the first time she competed as a baton twirler.  Not from any injury or because she purposely blocked it from her mind, instead her memory fades because she has been competing since she was 5 years old.

Picking up the baton when she was 3 years old, Colucy didn’t realize nearly two decades later she would be where she is now.  As a sophomore kiniseology and sports studies major, Colucy is the feature baton twirler of the Panther Marching Band, and she will be performing for the Homecoming football game, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at O’Brien Field.

Just because this is her second time performing the Homecoming game doesn’t mean it is any less nerve-wracking.

“If anything, it’s more,” she said.

The reason is not because of the size of the audience — a veteran competitor since 5 years old doesn’t need to worry about that — it’s because of who is in the audience.

Stephanie Felber and Johnny Zapka, two of Eastern’s alumni, will be visiting. They have both performed as baton twirlers and were influences on Colucy.

With them in the audience, Colucy knows the pressure is on, which will drive her that much harder not to drop during the performance — a habit she learned quickly at Eastern.

“I’m used to that from high school,” she said. “I would drop and the audience would gasp, and I thought they were going ‘boo!’”

But their presence also inspires Colucy, as they will be performing along with her during the Homecoming game, as well as the team the Twirling Twisters.

For Colucy, the only baton twirler on Eastern’s campus, the fact that for the most part she is a lone act never fazes her.

“It’s pretty fun. It’s like I have this special title,” Colucy said.

To prepare for a routine long before she hits the field under the stadium lights, Colucy warms up with an old theater trick — what she calls “The Shaking Game.”

It helps loosen her limbs by shaking each one individually, starting at eight times and then working her way down to shaking each limb only once.

Colucy knows she needs to keep limber for the performance, simply because of how demanding the sport truly is — especially Homecoming.

“I’m not just dancing for two minutes and 30 seconds,” she said. “I’m twirling for 15 minutes straight. I’m twirling from the time I enter the field to when I exit.”

And prior to that, students can see Colucy performing in various areas of the tailgating area, including the Alumni Tent.

“I go wherever the band goes,” she said.

By studying kinesiology and sports studies, Colucy hopes to further her love of baton twirling by teaching others the art she has grown up with.

Starting out, she already has one student — her band director, J. Corey Francis’ daughter.

But that is for the future. For now, Colucy wants to keep doing what she loves —twirling and dancing for a crowd cheering her on.

Colucy said she welcomes the size of the audience at any time. In fact, she feeds off of it.

“I like they’re all staring at me. And I like being the center of attention,” Colcuy said, laughing.

Bob Galuski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]