When the Hokie football team heads to Orlando for its 25th straight bowl game Dec. 28, the players won’t be the only athletes on the field. As the feature baton twirlers for The Marching Virginians, Serena Bronk and Connor Rudd perform breathtaking routines that capture the Hokie Spirit and have fans asking, “How do they do that?”
“I love entertaining the audience and seeing their reactions when I twirl the fire in the end zones,” said Bronk, of Owings, Maryland, a sophomore majoring in marketing in the Pamplin College of Business. “It’s hard to explain the feeling when I step out on the field for halftime in front of hundreds of people. People always ask if I'm nervous and I always tell them, ‘It’s not nerves, it’s excitement!’”
“To be on the field during halftime is an adrenalin rush,” said Rudd of Chesterfield, Virginia, a junior majoring in dairy science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “It’s great fun and I love being a part of the school spirit. It’s kind of like a roller coaster or at least my view of a roller coaster. The beginning is always nerve racking, then you start and slowly get comfortable, and when it’s over you’re glad you did it.”
Feature twirlers play an important role in The Marching Virginians. They are responsible for adding a layer of creativity to the band’s performances with choreographed routines they create.
“Serena and Connor are two outstanding performers who add an incredible level of visual interest to our shows,” said David McKee, director of The Marching Virginians since 1986. “In addition to being great performers, they are exemplary students and representatives of Virginia Tech and The Marching Virginians.”
Bronk and Rudd work well as a team, harnessing and combining their creative abilities to invent routines that complement the performance of the band while adding to the entertainment and excitement. “It’s great fun and I love being a part of the school spirit,” said Rudd. “It’s nice having someone there with me and being able to bounce ideas back and forth about different tricks before the game.”
To become the feature twirlers, Bronk and Rudd each had to undergo an extensive audition process and are required to re-audition each year. They practice with the band every weekday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. “My favorite part of practice is when we get to light our fire batons and rehearse our routines for game day,” said Bronk.
Bronk has been twirling since the age of three and has won many awards over the years, including regional, state, and national titles. She won two gold medals at two different world championship competitions in Switzerland and Italy.
“I had an interest in becoming a feature twirler for Virginia Tech since I was 10,” she said. “It was a dream come true when I finished my live audition the summer before my freshman year and was told I was officially a Virginia Tech feature twirler.”
Rudd also got started twirling at a young age.
“I was just another fidgety kid,” he recalled. “My mom said I used to twirl my pacifier. The older I got the larger and more dangerous the objects got. That’s where baton twirling came in and I have been doing it ever since.”
In addition to performing with The Marching Virginians, Bronk and Rudd are both involved in co-curricular activities, and the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is evident in their pursuits.
Bronk is part of Delta Gamma sorority, an involvement that has led her to participate in service projects to give back to her community.
“To me, being a Hokie means helping others, and putting others before yourself,” she said. “I am always the first one to be there when my friends need me, and I think Virginia Tech has taught me so much in that aspect.”
Rudd is involved with the Dairy Club and the Pre-Vet Club, allowing him to pave the way for his future career.
“I think the whole idea of being a Hokie is the idea of growing as a person,” he said. “Being a Hokie is not something you start out as. You become it through the interactions you have and people you meet. It’s more than just schooling, it’s the experiences you have that change you for the better. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. Being a Hokie signifies that you’re part of the Virginia Tech family and will be for life.”
The Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 28. More information is available at http://www.hokiesports.com/.
Written by Jessie Rogers, of Suffolk, Virginia, is a graduating senior majoring in Literature and Language with a minor in Language Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.