JACKSON TWP. — Since the age of 2, Anna White has been twirling the baton.
Countless hours of practice, competition and performances have taken her across the world.
This fall, twirling will take her to South Carolina. The 18-year-old recently won the spot of featured twirler for Clemson University's marching band.
She will be introduced to Clemson Tigers fans at the school's upcoming spring football game on April 6.
White, a senior at Jackson High School, has been working toward her collegiate career — as a twirler and academically — most of her life.
Twirlers who want to be part of a college group have to begin thinking about their plans way before high school, she said.
White began plotting her course in middle school. After participating in a twirler-for-a-day program at the University of Cincinnati, White knew she was destined to take the field while in college.
"You have to put yourself out there," she said. "I couldn't wait."
Among her top choices for college were Clemson, Michigan State, Georgia and Virginia Tech. Then after twirling at Clemson for a day, she knew that is where she wanted to be.
"It was such a great experience," said White, who has been the Purple Army's featured twirler for the past three years. "I just loved how they embraced me, and it felt like home."
Before she could audition to be the featured twirler, White had to get accepted to Clemson.
She applied in early fall and received word in mid-February that she was in. She had to act fast. Audition tapes were due Feb. 28.
White got the news March 2 that she was named the featured twirler.
"A big weight was lifted off me," she said. "I have been waiting all these years of high school because I wanted to twirl and have a great academic experience [in college]."
White also was awarded the Carolyn Creel Scholarship, named after the first Clemson featured twirler.
"It's pretty exciting being ranked No. 1 [in football]," White said. Clemson beat Alabama to take the football national championship on Jan. 7.
She can't wait to march into Clemson's stadium ahead of a football game. Fans line the streets — some hanging from buildings — to greet the band as they head to the game, White said.
Before she heads off to Clemson to study pre-veterinary medicine, White remains busy.
She has to finish the race strong, her mom, Sonja White, said.
Carrying a 3.9 GPA, White continues to work to keep up her academics as well as practice with the Jazz Dolls, a group she has competed with since the age of 5.
She's grateful to her parents, Sonja and Brett, who adopted her at the age of 10 months from Kazakhstan.
"It makes me think. If it wasn't for them bringing me into an American family how my life would be different," the National Honor Society member said.
Her mother, once a twirler at Jackson, got her daughter into the sport to help her muscle development. Living in a baby house in her native land with 80 other children, Anna fell behind in her physical development.
"When I watch her performing, it's crazy to think about her delays. All the hours in the gym have paid off," Sonja White said. "We are just really proud of her."