Giving it a twirl: Bartlett teen to compete internationally

With her family’s home packed full of dance and baton twirling trophies, Lexi Hivner already has reason to be proud of her artistic and athletic passions.

Lexi Hivner, a 16-year-old from Bartlett, will participate in the World Baton Twirling Federation's International Cup on Aug. 6 in the Netherlands.

Lexi Hivner, a 16-year-old from Bartlett, will participate in the World Baton Twirling Federation's International Cup on Aug. 6 in the Netherlands.

But with an invitation to represent the United States in the World Baton Twirling Federation’s International Cup, the Bartlett teen is on an adrenaline high.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited,” said an animated Lexi while trying to sit still in the living room of her family’s home.

She’s already competed successfully at regional, state and national competitions. But when she and her dad, Jim Hivner, leave for the Netherlands in June, it will be the first time she’s competed internationally.

Lexi already was a dancer when she picked up baton twirling at age 11. Now 16, she’s considered to be one of the top twirlers in the country.

“Within two years, I became a lead,” said Lexi. “And by then, I was hooked.”

Never missing a beat, Lexi has continued to dance. Earlier this month, she went to Florida for a dance competition. The sports have complemented each other so far.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I had to stop dancing,” said Lexi, who is home schooled and will be a junior this fall. “I love both. So far, it’s worked out that I’ve not had to choose.”

Being home schooled gives Lexi some of the flexibility to practice her art. Her mom, Brenda Flippo, stays with Lexi during the day while dad works as an attorney.

Even with the flexibility, the time and money involvement in dancing and twirling competitions has been huge for the family to adjust.

“At the time she started, we didn’t know how good she’d become,” said Brenda. “At that age, it seemed so innocent.”

Finding a place to practice isn’t the easiest thing either, said Jim. Aside from the University of Memphis, the Bartlett Recreation Center and a church on Houston Levee Road are among the few places in Shelby County with ceilings high enough for her.

But it’s all been worthwhile, they say. While in the Netherlands, Lexi will be only one of six chosen from the U.S. in her division to compete. She’s already the reigning champion of the southeast regional dance twirl and solo events. For the internationals, she’ll compete in the artistic twirl – or dance twirl – events against challengers from more than 20 other countries.

Yet, it’s not the competition and days of practice that have Lexi nervous about the trip. It’s the plane ride.

“I think she held onto my hand the entire time,” said Brenda of the only other time Lexi flew.

That was a short trip to Phoenix. This time, it’ll be a 13-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean. And dad – who is a certified coach for Lexi – will have to be the one to hold her hand. Mom isn’t going with this time, she said.

“I’ll just be taking a lot of deep breaths,” said Lexi, smiling somewhat anxiously about her upcoming adventure.

As for the future, Lexi said she wants to be a “dancing, twirling, orthodontist.” She and her parents said that although scholarships and even a career in twirling or coaching are possible, they have encouraged her to follow other career paths.

“Most twirl out in college,” said Jim.