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Bodalski's twirling talents sparkle

University School junior wins Distinguished Young Woman of Elm Grove

Feb. 1, 2012

It's a talent that doesn't get recognized by her peers very often.

But Elizabeth Bodalski's baton twirling skills should.

It's a talent that has allowed her to travel the country performing in front of thousands of people at major venues. It's a talent that has helped fill her bedroom with hundreds of trophies to the point where she's running out of space to put them all.

And it's ultimately the talent that helped her capture the 2013 Distinguished Young Woman of Elm Grove title a couple of weeks ago.

"I'm more known for volleyball," said Bodalski, who turns 17 this week. "I think people know about it, but I just don't emphasize it a lot. I'm kind of quiet about it."

Her talents, however, were made loud and clear when her marvelous baton twirling was on full display at the DYW program.

Taking classes together

It's a skill she has learned to master since the University School junior and her sister Margaret, 14, began taking classes at a local YMCA nine years ago.

They both fell in love with the art and have dedicated themselves to it.

"Twirling is something that has brought us very close over the years because we've spent so many hours practicing with each other," Elizabeth Bodalski said. "We go through all the ups and downs together, and we have made countless memories that we will always be able to share."

Memories such as traveling to San Diego to the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl - one of the bigger college football bowl games - in 2008 when her group, the Daley Debutantes, performed at halftime.

Memories such as traveling to South Bend, Ind., to the Notre Dame campus every summer to compete at the national baton twirling championships as well as winning the state duet title in the summer of 2008 and 2009.

Bodalski also helped her team take third place at nationals the last two years.

Bodalski said there were differences between the DYW scholarship competition and performing at a place like the Holiday Bowl.

"It's a little different when you don't know anyone in the stands, because at the bowl game it wasn't just me being on stage," Bodalski said. "I knew a lot of the parents at Central and East and that made it a little nerve-racking because speaking in front of that many people you're always afraid of messing up.

"But once you get started the nerves go away and you forget about everyone who's watching."

She must have, as the honor student won three of the five categories (interview, talent and self-expression) earning $400 in total scholarship money over the other two competitors.

"It was such an honor, because both of the girls were such great people and being able to act as a leader in Elm Grove is such a great opportunity," Bodalski said. "I'm really looking forward to the year ahead of me."

Busy year ahead

She'll have a busy year representing the city as well as taking part in the many organizations she's involved in such as being her class president at USM, playing club volleyball and lacrosse, participating in Spanish Honor Society, the Global Youth Leadership Institute (a non-profit leadership organization) and the STAR service club (an organization at USM that does service projects in the community).

The year will also include competing at the state competition in August. While she'd like to take home the crown, it's not her focus.

"I'm sure that I'm going to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends regardless if I don't win," Bodalski said. "The program has so much to offer to a young woman. It can help you become a better leader and help you strive to make a difference. It will definitely be a positive experience in my life."

Just like competing in the Elm Grove program was for Bodalski, who continued a tradition of St. Mary's alumnae winning the award as Sarah Creegan won the competition last year. The two are also neighbors.

"I knew her and I wanted to follow in her footsteps." Bodalski said of Creegan. "We live only four houses apart, and it's nice to keep the title on Crescent Drive two years in a row."

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