Longform

Competitive Jump Rope: Born in the Inner City and Bred in the Suburbs

Page 6 of 6

Four teams are competing today: the Hurricane Jumpers, the Supersonics, the Jumpin' Beinz, and the Bobcat Jumpers. Although the Twirling Tigers talked about competing, the team never arrived.

Around 11 a.m., Amanda Sepe finishes her speed-jumping round and walks off the floor choking back tears. Her score wasn't as high as she'd hoped. She got 310 jumps in three minutes, while the highest score of the day was 381. "It's just a qualifier. Don't cry," her mom says briskly.

Amanda sits on the bleachers and snuffles anyway. She's the second child I've seen cry at this tournament. The anxiety in the room is enormous. "You OK, Amanda?" Her friend Catherine Salow appears, hovering. "You OK?" Catherine's voice is kind but not coddling. Life isn't fair, her tone admonishes. Buck up. Within minutes, Amanda has rejoined her friends, sitting cross-legged on the gym floor, eating sandwiches and chips.

After her freestyle performance, Taryn is still distraught. She returns to the bleachers shaking. "I dropped my rope twice," she says. "We didn't even finish our routine."

Yet she's still hoping for a medal. As the competition winds down for the day, all the jumpers gather on the gym floor, their eyes worried, their faces pinched. A table covered with brightly colored ribbons tempts them from the front of the room. The coach who organized this event, Dillon Bethell, takes a microphone and begins announcing the winners.

When her name is called, Taryn bounces to her feet in wide-eyed, joyous surprise. She wins three ribbons in three categories of speed jumping. Her mom appears, beaming and snapping photos. Taryn and Olivia pose gleefully, kneeling on the floor, displaying their awards. Taryn smiles modestly at the camera. She looks proud and relieved. Today, she is a champion.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab