Super Skippers Jump to the Top of the World
BY MAUREEN TARQUINI, CARY YMCA SUPER SKIPPERS
Five members of the Cary YMCA Super Skippers jump rope team recently returned home from Toronto with a couple of special souvenirs — toboggans and gold medals.
It messed up their hair, but the five — Amy Tarquini, Lauren Warzecho, Melissa Robinson, Anna Perry and Amanda Kramer — were more than happy to put on the toboggans. They stood on the podium to receive their overall gold medal for Junior (12-14) Female teams in the Maple Leaf International Rope Skipping competition. The Maple Leaf International and Worlds competitions were hosted by the International Rope Skipping Federation and ran from July 20 to 24 in Toronto. The event, which occurs every two years, brings together the top skippers from all around the globe — approximately 500 jumpers from 16 countries spanning six continents participated in this year’s event.
Rope skipping is a rapidly growing sport. There are currently 36 member countries in FISAC and the international committee is pursuing the inclusion of jump rope in the Olympics. The sport is expected to gain further momentum with the January 2007 release of a Disney Channel movie about a double-dutch team going to the Worlds (footage for the movie was taken at the competition).
Practicing winning ways
For anyone who has ever seen a jump rope competition, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that this is not a playground game — and it’s not for the faint of heart. In one of the Super Skippers’ especially demanding double-dutch tricks, two of the girls perform a simultaneous one-handed handstand while inside two turning ropes.
Such feats require extensive training and practice. The five girls have all been jumping with the team for four to five years. In the months leading up to the Worlds competition, the team practiced five to six days every week. While the Super Skippers are no strangers to national awards, having won medals in both the AAU JR Olympics and the U.S. Amateur Jump Rope National competitions, this was the first time any members had jumped in an international competition. The girls qualified to be members of Team USA with a first-place age-group finish in the U.S. Trials in Boulder, Colo., in March.
In addition to the top two overall teams, up to three teams in each age category (12-14,15-17 and 18-plus) and gender (all female, all male and mixed) were selected to represent the United States. The placements were made by determining who had the most points after eight separate events — four double-dutch and four single rope with a combination of speed and freestyle events. The girls were thrilled to be part of Team USA, but never dreamed that they would go on to win at Maple Leaf. In addition to the overall gold medal, the Super Skippers took a first or second place finish in six of the eight events.
To say that these skippers are fast may be an understatement: In the single-rope speed relay, the girls averaged well over five rotations per second for the two-minute event. However, in spite of the fact that they did very well in the speed events, the team members had even greater success in the four freestyle events (single-rope pairs, single-rope four-person team show, double-dutch three-person and double-dutch four-person), where they dominated, winning a silver or gold in every category.
The routines, which are set to music and judged on both presentation/creativity and technical content. The routines have to be difficult enough to score highly in content, but must be near flawlessly executed, as one mistake lops off a full point out of the maximum 10 given for presentation.
The girls’ strongest challenge came from fellow Americans: two Bouncing Bulldogs teams from Durham. In the end, the U.S. teams swept all three overall medals in the junior female team competition, with the two Bulldogs teams taking the silver and bronze.
In addition to the Super Skippers and Bulldogs, several other local teams (Skipsations! from Chapel Hill and Impact Triforce from Cary) were also represented on Team USA. In fact, 36 out of the approximately 150 Team USA members were from the Triangle.
The Bouncing Bulldogs from Durham had 25 members on the team and took home five overall team medals. The Skipsations! from Chapel Hill had six members on the team and the senior females (Anna Schimmelfing, Wren Haaland, Suzanne Cash, Cindy Melton and Laura Engleman) took the overall gold in the Worlds 18-plus female division, finally beating the Hungarian girls who relegated them to the silver medal in the 2002 and 2004 Worlds. Tyler Perez from Cary’s Impact TriForce was a member of a senior (18-plus) all-male team that took home the overall silver medal in the Worlds competition.
In addition, Perez and Cash took the overall bronze medals in the individual (Masters) portion of the Maple Leaf event.
A highlight of the trip was the opportunity to meet actor Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical” fame when he came to watch the competition. He was in Toronto filming the movie for Disney Channel (working title — “Jump!”). Their former teammates Tyler Perez and Kiara Felder both landed parts in the movie. Perez was part of a rival double-dutch team and Felder was the “skipping double” for one of the lead actresses.
The girls would like to especially thank their coaches, Gary Anderson and Carie Steber. Anderson knows a thing or two about jump roping, since he is the repeat National freestyle champ in the males over-30 age division. His energy and enthusiasm for the sport are contagious. Steber has been skipping with the team for 10 years and coaching for the last two. Her kindness and boundless encouragement will be greatly missed when she leaves to attend Wingate University this fall.
The team also gratefully acknowledges the encouragement from the rest of their teammates, former coaches Tommy Hager and Shay Perez, the Cary Family YMCA and the team sponsors.