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Danny Johnston, Associated Press
Twirler Lou Willis holds three of her batons as she is interviewed at the U.S. National Baton Twirling Championships in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, July 12, 2011.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Emery Harriston works with computers for the Environmental Protection Agency.

And at 49, he's also the oldest baton twirler competing in this year's U.S. National Baton Twirling Championships, which are being held in Little Rock.

The annual twirling competition is part gymnastics, part dance and a whole lot of rhinestones. And this year, it's drawing about 600 twirlers.

Most twirlers stop throwing metal sticks into the air by the time they graduate from college. Some go on to work in the corporate world. Others settle into coaching roles.

But a handful of twirlers like Harriston keep performing.

It's certainly not for the money. Winners at the championship only bank a few hundred dollars in savings bonds.