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MSOM’s Feature Twirler Holds World Champion Titles
Current world champion Lexi Duda '20 has been twirling a tiny baton since she was 18 months old. Her mom, Juli Duda ’91 (below, third from left), also twirled for the Terps and started coaching Lexi “basically from the moment I was born,” Lexi says.
More than 250 members of the Mighty Sound of Maryland will stand behind Lexi Duda ’20 tomorrow, all blowing on their horns or banging their drums.
In front of her at Maryland Stadium will be tens of thousands of fans waiting to watch the Homecoming showdown between the Terps and the Michigan Wolverines.
But even with the amplified energy and noise of the occasion, she’ll be tuned into only the baton in her hand.
Duda, a feature twirler for the marching band, is also a current world champion and holder of another 20 titles over the years. Every week, she double-times onto the field for pregame and halftime performances, dancing like a ballerina and tossing and twirling up to four batons as she leaps across the gridiron and artfully dodges the band and color guard members.
Andrea Brown, associate director of bands, said Duda brings a “great level of showmanship and enthusiasm and excitement” to the ensemble.
“She’s just absolutely fantastic at what she does,” Brown said. “It’s something that’s eye-catching to the crowd. It gives another level of things for people to interact with during our performances.”
Duda has been wearing a sparkly leotard and twirling a tiny baton since she was 18 months old, when she would stand behind a teenage team coached by her mom, former Terps twirler Juli Duda ’91, and try to keep up with all the choreography.
Juli started coaching Lexi and her younger sister, Ally, “basically from the moment I was born,” Lexi said.
A coach with the Wheaton Dance/Twirl Teams for 38 years, Juli Duda describes Lexi’s approach to twirling as that of an elite athlete, adding in cross-training to her practice schedule.
“It’s not just a pastime,” she said. “It’s a way of life for her in that it helps mold her into the person she is as far as setting goals, working hard, working as a team member, working as an individual.”
Lexi has been competing at the highest level since 2009, as far away as Italy, France and Croatia. Last year, Lexi and Ally made history by becoming the first siblings to medal in the same event in their age categories at the World Championship.
“I’m a big believer in you have to have an internal drive, you can’t have an external drive,” Juli said. “It’s a lot of time, a lot of effort and a little bit of pixie dust.”
Lexi trains at least five days each week, in the morning and in the afternoons, balancing that with her class schedule as a journalism major and her sorority. Off-campus, Lexi still practices and competes with her Wheaton dance/twirl team under head coach Ann Kennedy. She’s starting to focus on coaching and teaching choreography. She and fellow feature twirler Madison Long write the choreography for each Maryland halftime show.
“Growing up, I was a lot more driven to not only want to be the best I can be, but I want to enjoy what I’m doing,” Lexi said. “That’s my biggest advice to anybody for literally anything is always do what you love. I’m a very strong believer of that because you will never get tired of anything if you’re doing what you love.”
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