JUNEAU - The Juneau Jumpers Club is in its 21st year, and the 39 members are prospering.
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Back in the day, Bob Berry, a middle school gym teacher, started the club as a side project to interjecting jump-roping into the national physical education curriculum. Berry's influence was instrumental in getting other jumping clubs started in Southeast Alaska, although only a couple remain.
The Jumpers train two times a week and attend camps as often as possible. They also compete in regional, state, national and even in world tournaments. The athletes who qualify for events, such as world tournaments that take place in other countries, regularly place in the top 10.
Next January, five deserving jumpers will attempt to qualify for a spot on the USA team, which competes in the World Team Championships in South Africa.
Less than two years ago, senior Isabela Bush entered into the Guiness Book of World Records for the most number of jumps in a 24 hour period. She skipped her rope under her feet 151,000 times, destroying the old record with time to spare.
Former club member Peter Nestler is a seven-time world champion and performs his jump rope program in over 300 schools throughout the country each year. Annually more than 100,000 students see his program, which promotes the sport and encourages students nationwide to get out there and exercise.
Head coach Karen Ross laid out the secrets to succeed as a Juneau Jumper.
"Dedication," Ross said. "Beyond the love of the sport and a willingness to abuse your body, anybody can do it," she said.
Saturday night, the Juneau Jumpers put on quite a show strutting a wide variety of skills. The jumper's integrated fancy footwork techniques with break dance and gymnastics into athletic rope-handling skits. They demonstrated speed jumping, Double Dutch, single freestyle, single rope quintuples, the traveler, the triangle and zigzagging.
Before the program, assistant coach Dan Landen described several of the skills.
"The traveler is where a couple with dual ropes will go along a row of kids that are jumping and they will jump the rope with the others," Landen said. "The zigzag method is where the ropes are in an offset formation and the kids rotate through the ropes as they jump. The triangle is where several kids are turning while other kids are jumping the rope. There is quite a variety and then there is our routine where all the jumpers go out at the same time to music."
Spectators could not help but be amazed and applaud, even before the skits ended. The organization puts on a few shows per year and are well worth seeing if the opportunity arises.