After a three-mile practice in the rain Thursday morning, a small group of Juneau Jumpers were chilled, to say the least, but it’s all so they’ll be prepared to travel thousands of miles to perform in some high-profile events you may have heard of: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
The girls have been practicing the two routines since August and will continue braving the inclement weather in preparation for the three-mile Macy’s Parade on Nov. 28 and the five-mile Rose Bowl Parade in January. Jumpers Tori Ross, 17, Dunya Hermann, 15, and Martina Worden, nearly 16, will take their talents to New York at the end of the month. Ross, Hermann, and jumpers Kelley Olson, 15, Mia Hines, 13, and Mikayla May, 13, will head to Southern California early next year.
Juneau Jumpers is a lot more than what it sounds like. It’s more than basic skipping rope, it’s more than a club sport, and it’s more than a team.
The bare minimum skills to be a Juneau Jumper are 60 Doubles in a row and 90 Speed Steps, but to advance in competitions or to be invited to perform in a parade, jumpers must be high-intermediate to low-advanced jumpers, Ross and Hermann said. Those levels are determined at competitions.
“In jump rope for competitions and stuff, it’s really important that we do gymnastics kind of stuff in our routines, like people do back flips and front flips and front-hand springs, which we don’t do, but ... in my Single Free I have a dive forward roll and a front hand spring and our double dutch has roundoffs and frogs, like you just jump forward onto your hands and stand and then jump down,” Hermann said.
Ross’ signature trick is a Double Under High Frog, Olson’s is a Caboose Backwards Triple into Pushup, Worden’s is a “TJ over under sort of thing” and Hines can do a Front Hand Spring. If you don’t know what they’re talking about, check out a performance or competition. They have a show Dec. 14 at Glacier Valley Elementary School at 7:30 p.m., which will help raise money for travel.
Their hard work takes them far, with members more often than not going to Nationals, Hermann said. Not to mention to camps and to perform in the events like the parades they’re prepping for.
“Last summer about 12 jumpers went to Nationals in California after going to regionals in Sitka, I think, and then we went to a jump rope camp in Seattle where they taught us a bunch of tricks and routines and stuff like that, and me and Tori went to Junior Olympics, which was in Detroit, but before that we had to go to trials, which was in California,” Hermann said.
“Last year we definitely traveled a lot more than normal, we usually travel about two times per year to regionals or then to Nationals,” Ross said.
But this year they’re after something bigger. Hermann said they’re trying to go to the world competition, which will be held in Hong Kong.
Coach Karen Ross said jumpers travel with their own travel funds from fundraising, or with help from their parents. The team will add to its usual shows some workshops to teach jump roping skills in other communities.
“I like all the opportunities we get, all the places we get to go, we get to meet a lot of people and go to camps and competitions. Everyone’s really friendly. It’s really positive,” Worden said.
It’s not just a team sport — the girls all agreed it’s like a family. Even with other competitors.
“Everyone’s so nice, when you jump rope at a meet ... we’re not mean to each other, if you see someone doing a trick and you’re like, ‘Oh, how do you do that?’ They’ll take the time and they’ll show you how to do the trick.”
Olson said the team spirit was part of why she’s part of Juneau Jumpers.
“It teaches you to work in a team because you’re all in this together, no matter if you’re competing against your fellow team mates or not, you’re still like a giant family.”
It’s a family that sticks together, too. Ross has been involved for 11 years, she said. And even the youngest members preparing to travel have been involved four and five years, with members like Hines joining after being involved with a jump roping program at her elementary school.
They’ll join a bigger group when they perform in the parades: about 220 jumpers from 45 states in the Macy’s parade and about 100 jumpers in the Rose Parade. In the Macy’s parade you can watch for them, they’ll be behind Snoopy.
As popular as the sport has grown, Ross said “it’s not an Olympic sport. Yet.”
But these girls are willing to go the distance, way more than a hop, skip and a jump.