Whittney Seckar-Anderson poised to be new Hawkeye Golden Girl

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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Back and forth she prances on the turf of Kinnick, gracefully showcasing only her best spins and turns in front of 70,000 screaming, diehard Hawkeye fans.

During her performance, she wields her weapon of choice: the baton. Some witness her toss it into the sky, only to dance an elegant routine that requires her full attention. Once finished, she reaches out to catch her baton cleanly and turns to face the crowd with a smile.

She is Iowa's Golden Girl.

For five years, the Golden Girl was Chelsea Russell, but now her time is up. She'll be replaced by incoming UI freshman Whittney Seckar-Anderson, who earned the right to become Iowa's new Golden Girl after a tryout in early February.

"I was really nervous at first," she said. "But after I did my first routine — that I thought went really well — I had much more confidence going into the other two.

"I tried to think of it more as a performance than a competition, which really helped."

Seckar-Anderson began twirling the moment she could hold a baton, and she started competing when she was 5.

Since then, the 18-year-old has racked up a list of accomplishments.

"My greatest accomplishment as a twirler was qualifying for the World Championship in the Senior Solo Division," she said. "It was last July at nationals that I qualified to be on the World Team."

The Senior Division consists of girls ages 16 and older, meaning she competed against — and beat out — twirlers who were in their mid-20s in order to represent the USA in Switzerland this April.

"I'm so honored to be representing the USA in twirling, and it will definitely be an award that will be hard to top," she said.

The list of accolades doesn't stop there. Seckar-Anderson has won numerous National and World Championships over the years. She claimed the World Open Strut Championships in 2004, 2008, 2009, and in 2011. She won the World Open Solo Championships in 2012. And in 2011, Seckar-Anderson earned the prestigious title of "Teenage Miss Majorette of America."

But Seckar-Anderson said she wouldn't have reached the top without some guidance from older sister Lacey; she admired her sister's talents and also enjoyed the fun of the sport.

That eased the pressure for her, she said — and there was a lot of it. The current Oshkosh (Wis.) High senior comes from a family of feature twirlers. Mothere Julie was a feature twirler for the Ole Miss Marching Band at the University of Mississippi. Lacey was a feature twirler for Michigan State for five years.

Lacey Seckar-Anderson's audition differed from her younger sister's because it was mostly based on an audition video, so she said it was difficult for her to comprehend the nerves and anxiety her sister was going through.

"Twirling is a very psychological sport, so no matter what anyone would've said, the nerves would still be there," Lacey Seckar-Anderson said.

Lacey Seckar-Anderson was certain Whittney would win the job, despite finding it hard to find the right words of confidence for her younger sister.

"I never doubted that Whittney would get the Golden Girl position," she said. "At the same time, I was incredibly nervous for her throughout the process. I just wanted everything to work out perfectly; all I want is for my little sister to be happy."

Although Whittney's success has brought many smiles over the years, she quickly said she couldn't have done it all on her own.

"There's a lot of people I could thank, but the one at the top of the list would be my mom," Seckar-Anderson said.

"… I couldn't thank her enough for all of the hours she's taken away from her life to focus on mine. She has spent so much time in the gym with me, helping me to become the best twirler — and person — I can be."

Julie Seckar-Anderson owns a dance studio in Oshkosh, and admitted to shedding a tear or two whenever she thinks about Seckar-Anderson's tryout day. But an accomplishment like the Golden Girl, she said, is something that every twirler dreams of. It's better than any and all titles and trophies.

"This is the greatest accomplishment that Whittney has achieved. She has won many titles, but this move will affect her future," she said. "She is able to twirl and perform — something she truly loves — and get an education at the same time. It truly is the best thing that has happened to Whittney."

Julie Seckar-Anderson said she believes her daughters have outdone her in terms of competing and twirling nationally. She said her accomplishments were nothing in comparison to Lacey's and Whittney's, though twirling in college was still the highlight of her college career.

"I wanted my daughters to be able to reap the rewards from all of the hard work as a competitive twirler and be able to perform in that setting," she said.

Whittney has done just that. No pressure necessary.

"I never felt forced to do it," she said. "I just always wanted to."

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