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    Before she steps onto the football field at halftime — before she goes leaping off hither and yon, tossing silver batons high into the sky as the U of L marching band plays James Brown’s “I Feel Good” or Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” — Steffany Lien takes a moment to breathe it all in. “I get to look around and feel the atmosphere,” says Lien, the band’s featured twirler. “It’s just incredible to me, every game.”

    Lien vaults across the field, her sequined outfit twinkling amid trumpets, trombones, clarinets, high-pitched piccolos and rat-a-tat snares — all backed by the booming bass notes from a line of shiny sousaphones. “Three batons, I can move around,” Lien says, “but with four I have to stay in one place. It’s more like juggling.” The four-baton “trick,” as Lien calls it, is kind of the twirling super-move.

    Lien grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and her mom, a twirler, passed down the skills. Lien started when she was four. Since then, she has earned 14 national titles. Colleges recruited her and she received a full-ride to U of L, where she’s currently a junior studying pre-law. In addition to performing at home games this month (North Carolina State on the 17th and Kentucky the following weekend), she’ll also be part of the Thanksgiving celebration at Wayside Christian Mission. “I try to incorporate elements of gymnastics and dance into all my routines,” she says. She has even twirled with fire. “But not at Cardinal Stadium,” she says with a laugh. “You don’t want to leave burn marks on the artificial turf. But grass fields are OK.”

    This originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine as the Portrait. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Cover photo: U of L marching band twirler Steffany Lien // by Gail Kamenish

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