Syracuse’s ‘Orange Girl’ from Altoona

First,she was “a teacher’s dream,” and now, she’s “the Orange Girl,” carrying on a tradition at Syracuse University that’s more than 60 years old.

Meghan Sinisi, 18, who’s the daughter of Anthony and Lori Sinisi of Altoona, has been chosen as the featured baton twirler at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, known as the “Orange Girl.”

The featured twirler leads the university’s marching band, nicknamed “The Pride of the Orange,” at school events including football and some basketball games, pep rallies and even an upcoming pro football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, she’ll be at the upcoming Penn State-Syracuse football game Saturday.

Sinisi is certainly up for the task, said her former local teacher, Debbie Bernhart, owner of Carol’s School of Baton in Altoona.

“I know it may sound corny, but she was absolutely a teacher’s dream,” said Bernhart, who has taught twirling for almost 50 years and taught Sinisi for five years. “She just loved to practice, and she had wonderful work ethics.”

According to the university’s student newspaper, “The Daily Orange,” the tradition of the Orange Girl started in 1947 when the first twirler joined the band, which was at that time was all men.

The band was then unofficially referred to for the next several years as “100 men and a girl,” remaining all men except for the baton-twirling girl, who wasn’t called the Orange Girl then. That didn’t happen until one of the twirlers coined the term in 1962, according to the student newspaper. Four years later, the baton twirler was no longer the only girl in the band as other women joined the musical group, the paper noted.

“The Orange Girl feature-twirler position has a long and storied history at SU,” said Justin Mertz, the band’s director.

Mertz said Sinisi, who had to first send in a video of herself doing a routine and then come for an audition, was chosen because “her routines are fast-paced and exciting.” She designed her own costume, which was sewn by Diane Stecht, who owns Designs by Diane of Duncansville.

“She exudes a poise and confidence that we seldom see in 18-year-olds,” Mertz said.

Sinisi started twirling when she was 4 years old, but left it for awhile then returned to the sport when she was a young teen.

She was in the majorette line at Keith Junior High School and also a featured twirler at Altoona Area Junior High School and later at the senior high level.

She was also chosen by fellow majorettes as their choice for homecoming queen in 2012 and went on to win homecoming queen at Altoona High last year.

She said she loves to perform, especially for crowds with young children because she thinks it inspires them to take up the baton themselves someday. She admitted she does get nervous sometimes but in a good way.

“I do get butterflies but I love what I do, so it’s more of a motivational feeling,” she said. “The first time I toss my baton, I just feel really exhilarated.”