When I was young, I watched baton twirling for the first time at the Santa Claus parade held in Regina. I thought that the baton twirlers were absolutely phenomenal and told my parents that I wanted to try the sport. At the time, my sister, Sarah was dancing at Martin School of Dance and Baton Twirling, so my parents brought me to the year-end recital to watch the dancing and twirling. In the Fall, they registered me in twirling at Martin and with the Sundown Optimist Baton Group, and I have continued twirling ever since. The 2023-2024 baton twirling season will be my 19th year of twirling.
What is the greatest satisfaction you get from your twirling?
I enjoy the challenges that are associated with twirling. Learning how to do new tricks and incorporating acrobatic movements into my twirling routines has always been a highlight. In recent years, I have enjoyed showcasing my style of twirling to the world at international competitions.
What is the most challenging thing about your sport?
One of the most challenging aspects about baton twirling is the dedication to the number of training hours that are required to master and excel in all of my events. On top of twirling, I have a personal trainer, Dan Farthing, at Level 10 Fitness that ensures my strength, conditioning, and power will enhance my twirling. I also used to competitively dance in jazz, lyrical, acro, and ballet, which all significantly contributed to the success of my twirling career.
What is your greatest accomplishment in the sport?
At the 2022 World Baton Twirling Championships in Turin, Italy, I received the silver medal in the Senior Women’s Freestyle event. This placement was the first time in 20 years that a Canadian athlete had medaled in the freestyle event at the World Championships. I recently competed at the 2023 World Baton Twirling Championships in Liverpool, England, and received a silver medal in World Adult Artistic Twirl and a bronze medal in World Adult X-Strut. Nationally, my greatest accomplishment is being a multi-time grand national title holder in medley, solo, two baton, three baton, and solo dance.
What attracted you to biology?
I started my undergraduate degree at the University of Regina with the intention of eventually becoming a veterinarian. I have always loved animals and wanted to medically take care of them as a profession. After taking the introductory courses in biology and, specifically, the introductory genetics course (BIOL 205), I became extremely interested in biological concepts. I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science with a major in Biology and a minor in Indigenous Studies and found that I really enjoyed courses that involved ecology and conservation topics. I decided that I would continue studying biology by entering a Master of Science at the University of Regina with Chris Somers as my supervisor.
How did you come to study fish/angling?
When entering my last year of my undergraduate degree, I attended biology seminars every Friday. Each week, a speaker who studies biology presents their research to students, staff, and visitors at the University of Regina. One of the speakers, Brendan Runde (North Carolina State University), spoke about his research on barotrauma. In his presentation, he included video footage of releasing fish with barotrauma using descending devices. I found this presentation inspiring and decided to reach out to Chris Somers about entering a master's researching fish. He mentioned that he had a project on catch and release ice fishing and had asked if I had ever been fishing before or enjoyed being outside in the winter. Fun fact, before entering my master's I had never been fishing before! I also am not too fond of the coldness of winter but was still extremely interested in this project. Since entering the program with Chris, I have put in countless hours of “scientific” angling and have loved every minute of it!
What is the most curious thing you can tell us about Northern Pike behavior based on your research?
When we started my field work using northern pike as a study species, we assumed that these fish would be aggressive predators that would eat anything presented to them. Well…turns out that is not true! I used GoPro cameras attached to tip-up fishing line to gather underwater video footage of pike interacting with different hook and bait types. These large, predatory fish are very tentative in the winter when approaching bait. I noticed that these fish like to “nibble” the bait before deciding to fully commit to a strike. Interesting to say the least!
What is the most satisfying aspect of your research?
My research involves working with many different volunteers of varying angling skill level. Teaching and sharing the ice angling experience with others is extremely satisfying, especially when the volunteers pull up their first fish from the ice hole. However, catching a large sized pike, over 100 cm in length, is always exciting!
What is the most peculiar thing that has happened to you in the field?
In the field, there are many slow fishing days. Some days very few pike come and interact with the tip-ups, meaning that my crew and I are waiting for hours in the ice shelter for a fish to interact with the tip-ups. As Chris likes to say, it is a “character building” moment. However, one day, we had some serious fishing action! For my project, we normally set 4-8 tip-up devices with different hook and bait types to target northern pike in the winter. But on this particular day a rare event occurred where we had two pike strike at two separate tip-ups at the exact same time. I cannot even explain how excited we were (and how quickly we sprinted to the tip-ups). We were able to successfully pull up the two pike at the same time, and quickly documented the event by taking a picture of myself holding these pike.
How would you characterize your experience at the U of R?
My experience at the University of Regina has been very positive and has provided me with many different opportunities. In my undergraduate degree, my class sizes were relatively small, which allowed me to talk and connect with other students, TAs, and professors. Having the opportunity to attend office hours was instrumental in me feeling comfortable enough to reach out to a U of R professor and ask about the graduate program. Once entering the graduate program, Chris made it important that all of the lab members stay connected and develop friendships. He also has become a mentor for me, and has provided me with great guidance throughout my master's degree.
What are your future plans?
This twirling season, I will be attending the 2024 Canadian Team Trials to compete for a position in Senior Women’s freestyle to represent Canada at the 2024 World Baton Twirling Championships in Sweden. The 2024 Canadian Team Trials are going to be held at the University of Regina March 8th-10th. I will also be defending my thesis within the next few months.