KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — She earned a gold medal at the 2018 World Baton Twirling Championships. Now she's earned a spot in front of the band at the University of Tennessee.
Laney Puhalla has come a long way since she started twirling as a toddler.
She is one of eight UT Majorettes and the feature twirler with the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band. She is a freshman.
"When I was shopping around for schools and visiting as soon as I visited this campus, I fell in love and the whole atmosphere that everyone provides is incredible and they really made me feel so at home here," she said.
Band is not her background. She competes inside gymnasiums with no sun or wind or distractions.
"For halftime shows it's a little bit different because there's a lot of variation. We're outside, number one. We're on turf which is a little bit different," she said.
Laney choreographs her own routines for competition and for halftime.
"In the atmosphere of a competition I would definitely be pushing myself as hard as I can to put out my biggest tricks, but when it comes to halftime I really just want to entertain and give the best show possible and sometimes that's not by doing the biggest tricks I can do," she said.
Her tricks are still impressive. Her favorite move in her current routine is tossing the baton then she does two front walkovers then catches the baton.
Laney's website features video demonstrations of different tricks she calls "Flip Tip Friday."
International competitions have earned her accolades. But there's something special about halftime at Neyland Stadium.
"Being able to step out on the field in front of 102,000 people is literally a dream come true. And when I look out into the audience and see so many people with a smile on their face and it's like a sea of orange it does nothing but warm my heart," she said.
Laney and the rest of the UT Majorettes will share the spotlight with some younger twirlers for part of the halftime show this Saturday, September 14.
This summer, hundreds of baton twirlers participated in the annual twirling camp at the University of Tennessee. The top 10 twirlers from that camp will perform during Saturday's halftime show with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band.