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Jump rope team hops to top


Oberlin College student determined to be best in world

Mike Fry jumps rope with Lisa Brown (front) and Elizabeth Michalos, both of Bath Township.

MEDINA — You may not see the Heartbeats competitive jump rope team on the cover of a Wheaties box, and don’t expect to see highlights on ESPN. 

In fact, it takes a drive to Medina to see these world-class contenders in action, practicing a form of double Dutch that would scare the pants off of a mere schoolyard contender. The Heartbeats can spin a rope fast enough to draw blood or at least a bruise.

“It doesn’t feel good,” said Mike Fry, 21, a student at Oberlin College and jump rope team member. “We’ll take pictures of the whips and cuts. It’s more of an incentive not to mess up.”

For the Heartbeats, there’s a lot at stake. After taking the national championships in 2005 and 2006, the team moved on to the world championship in 2006, competing in Toronto for the prestigious World Cup of jumping rope.

Belgium took the semiannual contest for the third straight time, sending the team of Northeast Ohio jumpers packing but itching for a rematch.

“If anything, not winning in Toronto was a good thing,” Fry said. “We’re working a lot harder now.”

Mike Fry, 21

Hometown: Richfield
School: Oberlin College junior
Major: Psychology
Lorain County connection: Fry has lived in the county for nearly three years.
Favorite part of Lorain County: Fry likes the scenery. He said Oberlin is a good, quiet town to study in, but like any college student, he sometimes wishes there were more of a night life.
Why jump rope?: Fry grew up playing baseball, soccer and football, but he also developed a respect for jumping rope when he saw a team perform. He was only in third grade, but he stuck with the sport and is now a world-class contender.
Goal: To make jumping rope an Olympic sport. 

The team practices three nights a week for two or three hours a session. But as the national January championships move closer, the team will begin practicing five nights a week. This year’s national championships will be in Cincinnati, and the winning team will move on to the world championships in Capetown, South Africa.

The Heartbeats practice like a team with a score to settle. The ropes swing through the air with a sound like Zorro’s sword. When the team works two ropes at once, spectator’s anxiety sets in as the rope whips mere inches past the jumper’s head. Luckily, no parents are watching or the younger members may be forced to sign up for a safer sport, maybe football or rugby.

“We’re definitely trying to make it to South Africa this year,” Heartbeats coach Pam Evans said. “There’s roughly 25 other teams we need to beat to get to the world championships.”

Evans said the team’s double Dutch and pairs routines earned the team two consecutive national titles.

There’s more to the sport than just jumping. Every routine is carefully choreographed and planned. Every second of the team’s seven-minute set has been meticulously thought out.

“You learn how to use nerves to your advantage,” Fry said. “I know we can win the world championships.”

Fry and the older team members teach jump rope courses and work to get other people excited about the sport. He said he wants to see jumping rope become an Olympic sport.

Tina Terpylak, 15, of Bath, is one of the younger members to reach the level of national competition. Twice she has been to the national competition and says she feels ready for the world championships.

“We have been working really hard, which has improved our confidence,” Terpylak said. “A lot of people think it is just jumping rope, but there are so many levels and skills you develop.”

Until January, the team will step up the intensity during practice, constantly working to the beat of 1990s-style techno blaring through the speakers of a boom box. When the world championships roll around in July 2008, they want to be there.

There will be plenty of scrapes, falls and pulled muscles along the way, but these aren’t playground jumpers, they’re professionals.

Contact Ben Norris at 653-6285 or bnorris@chroniclet.com. 

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