Just jump

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Anna Herman's heart beats rapidly, just like the whipping swoosh of plastic beads on her jump rope as it cuts through the air, over her head and back down to the gym floor.

She continues to jump for minutes, her knees getting higher and higher -- and no doubt more tired -- with each pass of the rope. She and teammate Lisa Brown pounce into a handstand, a split, then back up, while continuing to rotate the ropes around their bodies.

With their endings slightly off, the competitive jump roping pair does it again. And again.

An appearance at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade keeps inching closer, so the Ohio State sophomores continue the exhausting routine for an hour.

Herman became instantly hooked on the sport back in the third grade, when she saw a community group jump rope with glow sticks.

"I loved it," she said. "I told my mom that I wanted to jump rope."

Herman and Brown have been members of The Heartbeats, a competitive 50-person jump rope team out of northeast Ohio, for 10 years. In their tenure, they've toured countries including Canada and Australia on a quest for a world title. They placed fifth in the world championships, which occur every two years, in South Africa this summer.

For their routine in that competition, eight people spun four sets of 14-foot ropes in opposite directions as seven teammates, including Herman, jumped through the middle. Finally, one person moved down through the line with an individual rope to jump each person.

It wasn't perfect, but it had never been attempted before.

"The hardest part is definitely having everyone on the same page and just trying to get everything synchronized, because if one person doesn't do something at the right time, it can mess up everything else in the whole rest of the routine," Brown said.

The Heartbeats also compete in speed events, which are timed. Rivals jump as many times as possible in the allotted time span. For this event, Brown said, the team uses wire jump ropes.

"Usually, with the speed events, we found that our legs can go as fast as they can, but the arms are what hold us back," she said. "So you try to find the lightest thing you can turn that's still heavy enough to carry the arc around."

The only downside is when the wire rope hits a leg instead of the floor. "The whips kill," Brown said.

It takes about three seconds to see evidence of a missed twirl on the skin's surface. Brown said, but those aren't the only bruises they've endured while jumping. As their team tries more gymnastic-type stunts and assisted flipping, falling bodies become more and more common.

"If you're jumping to it and your hands don't support yourself, you crash and fall," she said. "But people are always really supportive and encouraging you to do the harder stuff. So when you do fall, there's always people ready with bags of ice."

Jump roping is not an Olympic sport at this point, but these women hope to change that. They're traveling across the world to spread the word about the sport. After enough countries join the same organization and agree to the same rules, jump roping will be eligible to become part of the Olympic games.

Coaching and judging are also on the women's to-do lists. Herman said she plans to compete for one more year, but would like to move toward coaching for USA Jump Rope, a nonprofit group The Heartbeats belong to.

"I plan on pulling back. I definitely want to coach," she said. "I've put in 10 years, there's no way I can give it up now."