Jesenia Martinez to compete with USA Twirl Team

18-year-old Jesenia Martinez has made it the the USA Twirl Team, and will be competing in France in August. Martinez is excited for the opportunities twirling is bringing her, and is looking forward to traveling to a different country to compete. She’s the first registered Native American to compete with the USA Team in history.

“I have been twirling since I was 4-years-old, but I hadn’t been competing until I was 8-years-old,” said Martinez. “So I’ve been twirling for 14 years.”

When asked why she started twirling, Martinez explained she couldn’t participate in contact sports.

“I started twirling because I had open heart surgery and I couldn’t do my contact sports,” she said. “So my mom got me into twirling that way.”

Martinez’s mom, Mary Gibson, sat close to her daughter during her interview, and offered an explanation as to why she chose twirling for her daughter.

“When I first checked into it, we did it for recreational,” said Gibson. “Then we discovered it was a lot more than recreation. I needed her to be involved in something because we come from a very athletic family, so she needed to get involved in something.”

Martinez spoke a little about what twirling involves and the hand-eye coordination it takes.

“Twirling involves a lot of gymnastics so you have to know ballet, gymnastics, just dance in general,” said Martinez. “But you have to have motor skills. The baton is a metal rod and you have to know how many counts in the air to toss the baton up in order to do your gymnastics move underneath and then catch it. So you have to know a lot of, like, contact things that are involved with it.”

While Martinez was competing at National last year in Florida, her score qualified her to try out for the USA Team. Martinez and her twirl partner, Baylee Pine, decided it would be fun to try out, even if they didn’t make the team.

“It was pretty crazy because we were just doing it to see what would happen,” said Martinez. “We didn’t really have the mindset of  ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to make the team.’ It was just going to be for fun, just to do it and see what happens, and we made the team.”

Martinez and Pine will be competing together in France as a pair, but Martinez will also be competing with Revolution, an elite baton team based out of the Sacramento area.

Martinez has worked with distinguished twirlers and twirling coaches across the state. Names such as Yolanda Stone, Mark Nash, Cindy Higgerson and Kelly Donovan have all offered tips and coaching to Martinez to help her hone in her craft and improve her skills. Gibson said Yolanda Stone has opened many doors for her daughter in the realm of competitive twirling.

Martinez says her favorite part of twirling is the networking opportunites it provides her. She has thoroughly enjoyed meeting people during her journey.

“(My favorite part is) the people I meet along the way because they are just a lot of humble and supportive people,” said Martinez.

Martinez and her mom fly out to France on July 31, and the competition begins August 3. Martinez has never been to France, and is looking forward to more than just the competition.

“Sight seeing,” Martinez said. “I want to see the Eiffel Tower, of course, and visit the really cool churches there.”

Martinez said she never thought she would make it this far, and gave thanks to the many people who helped get her to where she is today.

“Thank you to my parents and sisters for their support and all that they’ve been doing,” said Martinez. “I want to thank my coaches for pushing me this far and everyone that has pushed me in my younger days to get to this level.”

Gibson said she’s excited for her daughter, but knows the competition is fierce, which can be a little scary.

Martinez offered up a bit of advice for those who have considered entering into the world of competitive twirling.

“If you do it competitively it’s tough, but you just have to work your hardest before trying to get into it competitively,” she said. “Once you get into it competitively, there are others that work harder than you, but you just have to keep pushing in order to do your own best. I feel like when you are out there at the competitions, you have to know it’s not all about competing against others. It’s about competing against yourself to do your best.”

For Brandon Ennis, it was a parade in his hometown of Porterville where he saw something he knew he wanted to try: baton twirling.

“When I was 7 years old, I saw it in a parade and thought it was amazing to see sticks going in the air and someone catching it,” Brandon, 17, said. “I always told my mom, ‘I want a baton! I want a baton!’ And that Christmas I got a baton.”

This is the second straight year the Porterville area will be represented on Team USA. Porterville’s Brandon Ennis competed for Team USA at the World Baton Twirling Championships last year.

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