Julee Stewart recently twirled her way to another gold medal.
Stewart, out of the Sundown Optimist Baton Group in Regina, won the 2023 Congressional Cup invitational event in Maryland last weekend, as she beat out 22 other competitors in her category.
“This is definitely a highlight,” said Stewart of her latest win. “Competing at this type of international competition and doing really well definitely ranks right up there.”
The event, which also featured an open tournament and clinic portion, had around 250 novice-to-elite athletes from the National Baton Twirling Association (NBTA), United States Twirling Association (USTA), Canadian Baton Twirling Federation (CBTF) and Canadian National Baton Twirling Association (CNBTA).
In fact, it was the second straight Congressional Cup win for Stewart, who continues her excellence in the sport. Last year, Stewart won a silver medal at the world championship after winning six gold medals at nationals in solo, 2-baton, 3-baton, solo dance, medley and freestyle. At nationals, she was also named the overall athlete of the year and female athlete of the year.
“(That recognition) is a reward for all the hard work you put into the sport,” said Stewart, who started baton twirling at the age of seven. “I saw baton twirling in the Santa Claus parade that they hold each year and I thought that it was the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life.”
“I told my parents that was something I really wanted to do.”
And she’s been going strong ever since. Now the 25-year-old has her sights set on the International Baton Twirling Federation (IBTF) World Championships this August in Liverpool, England. In that same month, she is expecting to finished her master’s degree in science at the University of Regina.
“It’s definitely time management skills,” she said of balancing school and baton twirling. “I have to make sure I make the most use of my time at all times so I have a very detailed schedule that I have to follow so that I can get everything done at a high level.”
And though all her dedication and time put into the sport, Stewart has maintained a love for baton twirling, without putting too much pressure on herself.
“I’ve always wanted to excel in the event but I’ve also always wanted to make sure I was having fun and enjoying it as I go,” she said.
And she’s also passing her knowledge and experience down to the next generation – a group that helps her appreciate the sport even more.
“I love working with and seeing the younger twirlers,” said Stewart. “Their energy is contagious and they’re so excited every time they come into the gym.”