Three North State Teens Become International Inspirations
By Kimberly Boney
Story by Kimberly Bonéy
Photos by Melinda Hunter
Photo Courtesy of Kaitlyn Jarrett
SURE, GIRLS ARE MADE OF sugar and spice and everything nice. But they’re also made of strength, commitment, tenacity, grit, fearlessness and a willingness to shatter every stereotype in one fell swoop. The formulaic isn’t what we’ve always thought it was. It’s a whole lot more. Three North State girls are modern day she-roes who absolutely refuse to be boxed in.
Jaida Jobe, Baton Twirler—Jaida Jobe’s grandmother was perusing a newspaper when she stumbled on an advertisement for baton twirling. Jobe, then 5 years old, had already played soccer for two years and had always thought it was fun. But there was something different about twirling a baton. Initially, she just “followed behind the bigger girls” on parade routes. But soon after, Jobe and her family began to see that there was more to it than met the eye. It was then that Jobe fell in love with twirling wholeheartedly.
At 7, she began to twirl competitively, focusing on a myriad of events. The world is accustomed to seeing baton twirlers at parades, marching and twirling a baton behind a band or a float. That’s a mere tip of the iceberg. Baton twirling is an art as much as it is a sport. Each of these events incorporates elements of choreography, ballet, gymnastics, twirling, juggling, rhythm and timing, in addition to stage presence.
The Freestyle, often considered the main event, is the only event in which the baton twirler has her choice of music. The Short Program is another routine set to music. The Solo portion integrates flips and cartwheels. The Strut requires the baton twirler to stay in time with the music while maintaining contact with the baton. It also incorporates elements of ballet, body work and flips. The Two-Baton is a routine incorporating a consistently moving pair of batons. During the Three-Baton, the twirler essentially juggles three batons while performing contact flips and tricks with the two batons that are in hand. The third baton is always in the rotation. The Dance Twirl is an event that requires that the twirler to be “soft and pretty while moving with the music,” says Jobe.
“It feels kind of cool to tell people that I am a baton twirler. People always think you’ll just be marching and twirling a baton, but when they realize all there is to it, it’s interesting to see their reaction,” says Jobe.
Jobe has watched the eyes of audience members light up as she twirled at the United States National Baton Twirling Championships in Beaumont, Texas, where she secured five national titles. She has twirled her way from Alabama to Wisconsin to Florida, where she qualified for four events at the International Cup, to be held this August in France. Jobe qualified in the Solo, Two-Baton, Dance Twirl and Pairs (with a partner) events, ranking her in the top three in the nation in her division of 12-, 13- and 14-year-old girls.
Having twirled a baton for more than half of her life, Jobe has worked with her coach to choreograph some of her own freestyle performances, as a skill set that could come in handy in her pursuit of a baton-twirling college scholarship. Her talent could lead to a career in the realm of performing arts, like one young baton twirler who just finished a two-year tour with Cirque du Soleil. Although she thinks it would be fun to have a career in the performing arts, Jobe has her heart set on being a sixth-grade teacher – “because, at that age, they aren’t so mature they’ll have an attitude and they aren’t so young they’ll throw a tantrum. Sixth grade is the perfect age for having fun,” she says.
Although Jobe admits that getting hurt in practice and having to find the strength to get back up is one of the hardest parts of her work as a baton twirler, she says “the greatest reward is putting in the hard work and seeing a return on it. You’ve got to work hard for what you want in life.”
Faith Miller, Archer—We don’t always recognize the power of the influences around us, but that wasn’t the case with Faith Miller. A mere 10 years old at the time, Miller vividly recalls the excitement she felt when she watched Disney’s “Brave” and “The Hunger Games.” Inspired by their respective heroines, Miller asked her dad if she could pick up a bow. He said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It took Miller about a year of training before she got into competitions. Smaller tournaments gave way to higher-level ones. Miller has carved out her own space as an archer, breaking away from more traditional sports like soccer and cheerleading. Archery has brought her a new level of confidence. “I used to be a very shy person, but it’s brought me out of my shell. It’s an individual sport – you are competing for yourself and losing against yourself. You are your own competition.”
Seven years later, Miller has competed at state, national and international competitions. Archery has taken her to competitions in California, Arizona, North Carolina and Ohio. She attended the International Competition in Las Vegas where she secured a place on the USA Arching Team, which gave way to some incredible family adventures.
In December 2018, Miller and her parents, aunt and grandmother made their way to Italy for the Roma Trophy. The family donned “Team USA Faith Miller” t-shirts, a fitting ensemble, as they watched history in the making. It was there, at her first international tournament, amongst the best girls from all over the world, that Miller got the sense that she was shooting a bit better than she normally did.
“I didn’t even realize there was a world record to be broken – until I heard my name over the intercom, followed by an announcement that I had broken the world record. There was a rush of media, and they put a Roman warrior hat on my head, a tradition when someone breaks a record there. I looked up at my family and found them crying, smiling and cheering. At that moment, I realized I had something special to give,” says Miller.
The following month, Miller and her family made their way to France, where she competed in the Indoor World Series. She remembers a little girl coming down from the stands with a target-shaped pillow in her hand, asking Miller for an autograph.
“I’ve never wanted to feel more special than anyone else. We all have our ups and downs – we are all just people. That was the moment I realized that I was doing something that kids looked up to me for. There are times when people are looking up to those who are doing bad things. I’m glad that I can be looked up to for doing something positive.”
Miller’s success didn’t come without some struggle. A couple of years ago, she nearly gave up shooting. After a growth spurt that changed her proportions and thereby her draw length, Miller found herself having more bad days than good ones. She was frequently breaking her bow and scoring low in tournaments, a process that took a full year of training and growing to overcome.
“While I was working through it, I had to step back and give it time. Eventually, I got my shot back. The experience taught me that things take time, but they will work out if you are passionate and persistent.”
When asked what it feels like to shatter the stereotype that “archery isn’t something that girls can do,” Miller replies swiftly and confidently, “Once you get into archery, it doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy. You’re still the one with the bow in your hand.”
Kaitlyn Jarrett, Weightlifter —Burned out from years of playing volleyball and softball, Kaitlyn Jarrett needed a change of scenery. She began CrossFit training the summer before she started eighth grade, in 2013. After six months, she began a four-month span of weight training. “Weightlifting was something completely new to me. I had a natural talent for it, and it was something I really enjoyed,” says Jarrett.
Jarrett, a 2018 graduate of Foothill High School in Palo Cedro, had such a penchant for weightlifting that it gained her a scholarship to Marian University in Indianapolis. At just 19 years old, Jarrett already has five years under her belt as a competitive weightlifter. Her passion has taken her to two youth national meets in which she placed second. She has attended a host of smaller, California-based qualifying meets, as well as the University Nationals, a nationwide college weightlifting competition. In the summer of 2016, Jarrett spent nine days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and she hopes to participate in the 2024 Olympics.
Jarrett’s proudest achievement, however, is being involved in a sport that is out of the ordinary – and having the kind of tenacity that has allowed her to represent the United States three times on the world stage, a feeling that she says “leaves me breathless.”
She placed fourth at the Youth Pan American Championships in Guatemala in 2016, and the following spring, she went to Ecuador for the Junior Pan American Championship, where she placed fourth overall and secured a bronze medal for a maneuver called “the snatch.” This movement requires a wide grip on the bar and a single fluid movement to lift the bar overhead, and Jarrett has lifted as much as 209 pounds. Jarrett has also mastered the “clean and jerk,” in which the bar is pulled up from the floor and drawn up to the shoulders, then the weightlifter dips down with the knees and drives the bar overhead. Jarrett has lifted as much as 256 pounds with this maneuver.
Jarrett is currently pursuing a career in exercise science. Although she hasn’t determined her destination just yet, Jarrett would love to one day coach her own barbell club.
Firmly committed to working out from six to nine times a week, for anywhere from one to two hours each time, Jarrett admits: “Weightlifting takes a lot out of your body. It’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world to push your body like that, but I love the sport – and I don’t stop.
“You have to have a good mindset for a successful training session or competition. I try to think positively. I take it one lift at a time. Although it’s hard to predict what will happen with regard to injuries or life in general, my goal is to walk this path for as long as I can,” Jarrett says.
It’s not that Jarrett hasn’t had a few hard days. She’s attended meets in which she didn’t make her expected lifts. “It’s hard and it’s frustrating. But you can’t dwell on the losses. You’ve got to keep moving forward,” she says. “You’ve got to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, you’ve got to push yourself and you can’t be afraid to try new things.”
Jarrett isn’t boxed in by some people’s presumptions that weightlifting is a sport reserved for men. Her record and her passion-filled words make it plain for the non-believers: “Weightlifting isn’t just for guys. It’s a girl thing, too.” •