Sports

Rope Skippers take the leap to Orlando

Ally Clement (left), 11, and Izzy Kuniholm (right), 16, turn the rope for Lizzy Sharman (center), 14, as she flips Abigail Harrison (center), 10, during practice at Woodward Middle School. The team is off to Nationals in Florida this weekend. - Julie Busch photo
Ally Clement (left), 11, and Izzy Kuniholm (right), 16, turn the rope for Lizzy Sharman (center), 14, as she flips Abigail Harrison (center), 10, during practice at Woodward Middle School. The team is off to Nationals in Florida this weekend.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

Fifteen members of the team travel to Nationals at Walt Disney World.

Step, step, step, go the feet.

Snap, snap, snap, go the ropes.

“One, two, three, four,” goes the count.

Four members of the Bainbridge Island Rope Skippers – Kelsey Gonwick, Molly Harrison, Chloe Dolese and Emily Applewhite – work on their double dutch pairs freestyle routine on a muggy afternoon inside the Woodward Gym, trying to get their timing down so they can execute their routine with metronome-like precision.

It’s a stop and go operation, as they go over their moves, who should be where, what move should be done on what count and anything else that may push them off an inch and throw their whole routine out of whack.

But when they speed it up and throw everything together, it’s a sight to watch.

“They’ve really ramped their routines up since Regionals,” team manager Bonnie Harrison said. “They’re trying to figure out what they can land consistently, because a no-miss routine is really critical to your score.”

The Rope Skippers are working hard to prepare for the USA Jump Rope National Age Division Championship and USA Jump Rope Grand National Championship.

The Age Division Championship is held at the Walt Disney Wide World Of Sports complex Friday and Saturday in Orlando, Fla. while the Grand National Championship is held at MGM Studios on Sunday, which will be televised on ESPN.

The team, in its 15th year of existence, will send 15 out of their 17 members to Nationals to participate in nine different events.

It’s the second time in three years that a majority of the group has qualified to compete at Nationals.

“To watch them going onto Nationals is just so exciting,” Harrison said, noting that they have to practice many hours nearly year round to get their teamwork and skills up to par. “The national competition is very fun and it’s great to see what a lot of the other teams are doing.”

The other teams across the nation will get to see Ally Abigail – one of the girls who went to nationals two years ago – do her thing, as she was the Rope Skipper that qualified in the most events with six.

She’ll be in the pairs freestyle with her partner Ally Clement, the double dutch single freestyle with her partners Emy Mather and Clement, the double dutch pairs freestyle with her partners Izzy Kuniholm, Lizzy Sharman and Clement, the one minute speed event, the single rope speed relay with her partners Applewhite, Anna Mather and Clement and the three minute speed event.

Kuniholm and Sharman are in five events – the double dutch single freestyle, the double dutch pairs freestyle and the single rope, double dutch and double dutch pairs speed relays.

Sarah Sharman and Emma Yearous will take part in the single rope freestyle and are in the pairs freestyle.

Ali Maier, who is a sophomore at Bainbridge High and has jumped with the Rope Skippers for eight years, took this year off to join a team made up of several jumpers that was selected to represent the US in the Maple Leaf International Competition in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in July.

She did qualify for Nationals in the 18-22 age group for the pairs freestyle with Vanessa Hurd, a senior who recently moved back to the island and several other individual events.

All 15 qualified at the Regional competition in Woodinville in May against six other teams including Hot Dog USA, a 50 person squad out of Kirkland that has won a national championship and have been featured on national TV programs and many halftime shows.

“The Hot Dogs looked and behaved like a well-disciplined Russian Olympic team,” said one parent in the team’s press release. “But, at the end of the seven-hour competition, when our girls’ names kept being called, and they kept running up to accept their awards as qualifiers for Nationals, I seriously had to hold back the tears.”

But the Rope Skippers are not one to just compete at various tournaments. They perform in many local events and Spartan games, including the Grand Old Fourth parade and hold workshops at local schools on half-days and volunteer at local non-profits to teach kids how to jump rope.

They also hold a summer camp every year, with this year’s held at Woodward Gym from July 10-13 from 9 a.m. to noon.

While Harrison feels they’ll be competitive at Nationals – “Their goal is to place in the top 10,” she said – she also feels being a Rope Skipper benefits the kids in so many other ways than just getting some exercise and winning some medals.

“I think that the experience they have doing this (is great),” she said. “It’s a multi-age team, so we really get the leadership from the older girls and the chance for the older girls to be the younger girls’ role models. They adore the older girls and learn skills from the older girls so it’s a really nice relationship that way.”

The cost of the camp is $95 and includes a rope, snacks and a drink. Twenty spots are left.

To sign up, contact the team at BIRopeSkippers@hotmail.com or call Harrison at 842-2873.

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