Jaguars jump for fun

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 20, 2002

Last September, Tylen Riddick and some of her King’s Fork Middle School classmates were sharpening their rope-jumping skills in the Jaguar Gym. During the double-dutch derby, the students were joined by some of their instructors.

&uot;We started talking about starting a double-dutch team,&uot; recalls Riddick, a seventh-grade Lady Jaguar. &uot;We went around asking people to join our squad.&uot;

Over the next few weeks, several students joined the team. Whenever the school held an athletic function, such as during a home game in Suffolk Middle School Basketball League competition, the Jaguar Double-Dutchers showed their skills at turning and jumping.

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&uot;I’m better at jumping than turning (the ropes),&uot; says seventh-grader Taylorria Eley, a co-captain. &uot;I can work my legs for a long time.&uot;

She’s had years of practice. &uot;I’ve been double-dutch jumping since I was seven, and I jumped on the John Yeates Middle School team before this.

&uot;I like jumping because it helps keep me out of trouble. I wasn’t in trouble before it, but if a person has nothing to do, they sometimes find bad things to do.&uot;

Schoolwork is also important to the jumpers and their coaches; to compete on the team, a student must have a 2.0 grade point average (GPA). To co-captain the team (as Eley and her cousin Taishae Jackson do), a Jaguar’s GPA must be at least 3.0.

&uot;Double-dutch doesn’t really interfere with schoolwork,&uot; says Jackson, another seventh-grader. &uot;We practice during gym class and every Thursday after school, so we have plenty of time to do our homework.&uot;

At 1 p.m. today, the team will show its skills at halftime of a charity basketball game between their teammates and a group of local firefighters. Trying to jump in the midst of so much screaming and cheering from her classmates can be nerve-wracking, says Riddick.

&uot;I’m always nervous be-cause everyone’s looking at me and chanting my name,&uot; she says. &uot;I try to block everything out, and pretend that there’s no one else in the room except for me.&uot;

Even though the crowd’s attention is usually on the person in the midst of the ropes, turning them can be a tough job as well, says eighth-grader Marquis Jennings.

&uot;You have to get your arms in shape to turn the ropes right,&uot; he says. &uot;I’ve been doing it for four years, so my arms are in good shape. I used to go home and tie the ropes to something strong so I could practice turning the ropes. A turner has to be able to control the ropes if the jumper slows down or speeds up.&uot;