OSAWATOMIE, Kan. -- At a lot of high school and college football games this fall, people in the stands for pre-game or half-time have seen some spectacular on field talent. They are the baton twirlers at the front of the marching bands -- dazzling entertainers performing amazing feats. This week's Fox 4 Young Achiever is one of them. And she's launched herself to the top in national competition in just a few short years.
"My favorite trick is a Toss Front Walkover," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Delaney Madden as she performs her routine on the gym floor at Osawatomie High School. "It really gets the crowd excited at the football games."
Delaney has learned a lot of amazing tricks as a baton twirler, tricks with up to three batons at once, and with skilled dance and gymnastics moves mixed in.
"All tricks kind of have a hard part about them," said Delaney, who continued to perform. "Illusions are hard because you have to look away from the baton when you do them."
And just like that, she pulls one off. Delaney has picked up all these tricks in a very short time. Now a junior at Osawatomie High, Delaney didn't start on baton until middle school, put it aside for quite awhile and didn't really get serious with it until just a couple of years ago.
"It involves so many things that I enjoy," said Delaney. "Ballet. Dance. Gymnastics is a huge part of it. I love being able to perform Friday nights."
"She can just pretend that there's nobody else around and just perform like she's in her backyard and she doesn't get nervous about it," said Osawatomie High School Band Director Mike Packard. But make no mistake, says Packard, Delaney is a superb entertainer, a real crowd pleaser as his marching band's featured twirler.
"It's just amazing that she can hold that many people's attention," said Packard. "They're not just down at the concession stand. We have people stay in the stands for half-time just to watch her twirl."
And with tireless devotion to practice, Delaney also has quickly become a very successful twirling competitor.
"The competitive part, it's a lot more nerve-racking," said Delaney. "It's a lot more technical." In July, in her first major national contest, Delaney placed in the top five in her age and skill level. Douglas Daniels signed on as Delaney's private coach in the months leading up to that.
"And when I was working with her this past summer, I knew she would do well," said Daniels. "And she had beat out a lot of girls that all had been going to Nationals for years."
Delaney has herself on a fast track now to make even more rapid progress. That's because she has a clear goal set for her future in twirling. And the clock is ticking for her to get to the top very soon.
"In two more years I'll be going to college and I really want to be a twirler in college for a university," said Delaney.
She could get a big scholarship to do that, too. And after college she hopes to open her own studio teaching baton and dance. But as she drives toward that goal, she's having a whole lot of fun already wowing crowds.
"And when they're reacting and cheering, that's like the best," said Delaney. "And when little kids are watching you, that's really fun."
Delaney has quite a powerful role model in baton twirling. Her primary coach is Matti Diener who starred at Gardner-Edgerton High School and is now on scholarship at Oklahoma State University as the featured twirler for the OSU marching band.
Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.