OBERLIN — The noise echoed throughout the gym — thud, slap, thud, slap — as a dozen Prospect Elementary School students jumped rope while their coach yelled counts of “one, two,” encouraging them to stay on beat as their ropes whipped through the air.
Helen Levy jumps through the rope as fifth-grade teammates Zoe Stephens, left, and Aarohi Mehta follow beind her and Saya Miyazawa, left, and Kyra Lopez twirl the rope during an OB Jump practice Thursday afternoon at Prospect Elementary School in Oberlin.
KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Enlarge
The wire ropes were a blur as they practiced for speed and power events, turning their wrists and moving their feet as fast as possible for as many times as possible during 30-second intervals.
Breathless but smiling, the students begged coach Jenny Mentzer to let them show a Chronicle-Telegram photographer their freestyle jumping, where alone and in pairs they danced as well as jumped to blaring pop music.
Mentzer started the Rope Wrappers, an intramural jump club, more than 10 years ago, but OB Jump, an elite group that practices twice a week at the school, is taking jumping to the next level.
For the first time, members are going to the World Jump Rope Competition and Camp in Orlando, Fla.
The four students will spend 10 days in July in Orlando, including five days of competition and a camp where they will have the opportunity to learn from some of the best jumpers in the world.
Mentzer, who’s also a physical education teacher at Prospect, said OB Jump athletes have gone to smaller events in the past, but nothing on this scale. There will be teams competing from all over the world.
To prepare, she’s taken the students to smaller competitions around Ohio where they’ve earned ribbons and trophies for their routines.
“It’s recommended that you don’t go to the World unless you place in several events,” Mentzer explained. “They’ve already proven themselves. I don’t want to send anyone that’s not competition-ready.”
The students heading to Florida are Helen Levy, 10, Aarohi Mehta, 11, Zoe Stephens, 11, and Saya Miyazawa, 10.
At the event they’ll compete against others their age in speed and power, freestyle, and double-dutch events.
In the speed and power events, the kids try to make the jump rope go as fast as possible while judges count their jumps. They also do double-unders, where the rope has to go around twice during each jump.
In the freestyle events, the kids learn tricks and incorporate gymnastic moves into their jumps, including hand stands, cartwheels and spins.
OB Jump is open to any student in Oberlin Schools, but Mentzer said she has mostly younger kids because students get busy with other sports as they get older.
Because of the physical demands of jumping rope, Mentzer said, she thinks her kids are some of the most accomplished in the school.
Practice is twice a week for 2½ hours and includes a warm-up of running, pushups and sit-ups, followed by lots of stretching.
The students then practice their moves alone and in pairs and work on their freestyle routines. They go to daily practice sessions when a competition is looming.
“Jump rope is amazing exercise,” Mentzer said. “Ten minutes of jumping rope is equal to an hour of jogging and our practice is two solid hours where they’re jumping most of that time. I have the best athletes in the school, no doubt about that.”
The four girls going to Orlando giggled and talked over each other in excited bursts when asked about OB Jump.
“It’s really cool and a lot of fun,” Zoe said, while the others nodded.
A fundraiser 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at First Church in Oberlin will help pay for the girls’ trip to Orlando. The event will have tacos, burritos, bowls and sides for sale.
Pre-sale tickets are available for $10 and include a choice of an entr￩e, sides, drink and dessert. Tickets also are available at the door. For more information or to pre-order tickets, email Mentzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.