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New London - How do you train for a three-mile jump rope routine through the center of Manhattan?
For Schyler Davis of New London and Kiona Carter of Ledyard, who will join the USA Jump Rope Team for the 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, it's after-school indoor practice on Fridays and laps around the outdoor track at Connecticut College on Saturdays.
The high school juniors - Davis attends The Williams School in New London and Carter goes to St. Bernard High School in Uncasville - will join 200 other skippers from throughout the United States for the parade. The team will jump the entire route, alternating between jumping and skipping while doing rope maneuvers. At the end of the parade at Herald Square, all 200 jumpers will give a one-minute routine, which is expected to be televised.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," Carter said.
During a recent practice session at the gymnasium at Pine Point School, the girls repeated a two-minute, eight-count routine that was sent to them from the national team. They practiced the cancan, the cross cancan, a scissor kick and jumped with feet together, feet apart and one foot extended. There were hops, skips, crosses and double time jumps, along with fancy rope maneuvers - side-to-side, overhead, twists. The rope manipulations are part of the "resting" portion of the routine.
Davis and Carter are members of the Pouncing Panthers Jump Rope Team, a regional team based out of Pine Point, where the two girls went to school together. In 2007, when they were in fourth grade, they saw "Jump In," a movie about a young boxer who joins a Double Dutch team as a favor to a friend and discovers he's good at it.
Although they had never turned a rope or jumped over one, they began jumping rope at an after-school jump rope class and performed during the school's talent show.
"We were inspired by that movie, especially the Double Dutch," Davis said. Double Dutch entails jumping over two ropes that are twirled together, like an egg beater.
Today, the girls are experts. They can do hand stands and pushups while maneuvering over the two ropes. They are so good, younger members of the Pouncing Panthers stop their own practicing to watch.
"I'm kind of nervous thinking about how many people will be watching," Carter after the two took a break. "Some people say, 'Oh, it's just jump rope.' They don't understand how difficult it is."
Carter added that seeing the reaction of people when they see the moves is also part of the fun.
"It's such a unique sport," she said.
Maybe the one person who is more excited and proud of the girls' achievements is Judy Davis, Pine Point gym teacher, Pouncing Panther founder and coach, and Schyler's mom. She will be accompanying the girls to New York City, where they will be staying at a hotel in Times Square with the other 198 jumpers. She uses a lot of adjectives when talking about her jumpers, like exciting, amazing and incredible.
"I've always told them, if you can imagine it, you can achieve it," she said during the practice, adding in details the girls left out and offering up her athletes as mentors to start new clubs.
"I'm so happy we got the sport started," she said. "We'll come to school. We'll do events. This is such a great sport."
The Pouncing Panthers has about 23 members who compete around the country. The team's first regional competition was in 2008 when three team members qualified for double dutch freestyle event in the USA Jump Rope National Competition in Orlando, Fla.
The team also promotes the sport, performing at local schools at events such as Autism Speaks in October.
Anyone interested in joining the team can contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.