It’s halftime at a USC football game at the Coliseum, and some students are heading up the aisle to get some snacks.They stop when a fire erupts.Looking back toward the field, they see flames tossed high into the sky, standing out against the backdrop of the night. The Olympic torch that rests at the top of the Coliseum is not lit yet, so the flames must have another source. The spinning flames reach the arc of their flight and start to fall.Underneath the flames, Emily Clapper impatiently waits. She seems oblivious to the flame dancing just dozens of feet above her head and falling fast. She does a few graceful twists and looks up just in time to catch the baton with a ball of fire at either end. She smiles to the 80,000 people watching as she twists the baton in her hands a few times and tosses it back up in the air.Clapper, a senior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention, is a baton twirler in the Trojan Marching Band. Although most kids who go to a USC football game in the Coliseum idolize the football players and Song Girls, Clapper had her eyes elsewhere.Ever since she was little, she dreamt of hearing her name announced at the Coliseum as a USC twirler by legendary announcer Dennis Packer. She set a goal in second grade to turn her dream into a reality, which is something we all can learn from.Too many times, kids dream about becoming a firefighter, astronaut or ball player, and though sometimes people’s interests change, most of the time society decides that making those dreams a reality is impossible and discourages it. Although twirling won’t be Clapper’s profession, she nevertheless sought out her passion and pursued what she loved — even though she had no idea where it might take her.“It was a goal. I never knew it was actually going to happen,” Clapper said. “That’s what I wanted to do and I was going to do everything I can to make it happen and twirl at USC.”Clapper’s dad, a USC alumnus, has been taking her to Trojan football games for as long as she can remember, where she was immediately attracted to the twirlers.“They were highly visible,” she said. “I thought they were beautiful and really cool and their names were announced.”Clapper started twirling in second grade at St. Theresa Catholic School in Palm Springs, Calif. She joined an after-school program and performed at malls, in parades and during assemblies. Three years later, she got her first big break when Lynn Mallotto, a former twirling national champion who had a son one year older than Clapper, partnered up with Clapper’s after-school coach. Mallotto is still Clapper’s coach to this day.As more kids dropped out of twirling in middle school and high school to pursue sports or music, Clapper stuck with it. By her sophomore year in high school, she was the only student left that Mallotto took under her wing. Even though Clapper found success at nationals in the summer between high school and college, her goal hadn’t changed.“I didn’t want to be the best twirler in the world or whatever; I just wanted to twirl at USC,” Clapper said. “So that was my goal in my twirling life and I knew that twirling at USC meant that I had to have the grades and everything to get into USC before I could even be a twirler here. Everything I did in high school was to prepare for my career at USC.”When it came time to choose what college she would attend, Clapper picked USC before twirling tryouts.However, twirling tryouts came in April of her senior year of high school. She only had one other person to compete against, but there was a twist that she wasn’t prepared for. She had to try out in front of the entire marching band.Twirlers try out at the same time as the drum majors, the person who dresses up as Tommy Trojan, and because the band votes on the new drum major, they also vote on the new twirler. But many band members don’t know much about the intricacies of twirling.“Oh my gosh, it was so scary,” Clapper said. “The band is literally there judging you and deciding if you’re going to fit in with the band and if they’re going to like you. So all the band really knows is if you look the part and you don’t drop [the baton].“Fortunately, band director Arthur C. Bartner has the final say of who gets the twirling gig, and Clapper found out it was her that night. She hasn’t looked back and she’s been twirling at USC football and basketball games ever since. Clapper has also performed at two Rose Bowls and the many exotic places the band travels to, including Hawaii and Brazil.“It’s seriously the experience of a lifetime,” Clapper said. “I felt like it was so special for me.”Clapper, who can twirl as many as three batons at a time, says USC will be the final stop of her twirling career. She starts her master’s program in public health in the spring and doesn’t want to compete individually because she feels burned out after exhaustively competing in high school.But for the rest of her life, she won’t forget the experience of twirling at the Coliseum and hearing her name announced over the speakers of the Coliseum. Announcer Packer approached Clapper at the Stanford game a few weeks ago and complimented her on her fire-twirling abilities.For Clapper, that perfected her dream that came true.“Spittin’ Sports” runs every Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Kenny at [email protected]
Reports reaching Sportsfilla.com can reveal, Premier Soccer League side SuperSport United have officially contacted AshGold about signing Ghana first choice goalkeeper Fatau Dauda.SuperSport officials watched the 28-year-old during the 2013 AFCON in South Africa and are convinced about his abilities.Officials of SuperSport will fly down to Ghana to hold talks with AshGold before the end of the month to reach a deal for the shot-stopper.AshGold would surely allow the keeper to leave after a five-year stay with the Miners as Robert Dabuo has been acquired as a suitable replacement for him.They will also include striker Yakubu Mohammed in their talks as they hope to secure the two to join midfielder Edwin Gyimah.Gyimah was a huge hit with SuperSport United this term which has prompted the decision for them to look closely at Ghanaian players. Dauda’s performances at the Africa Cup of Nations is also said to have attracted interest from other club in North Africa.