Not just double dutch
Taking jump-roping to the extreme
DURHAM -- Jump ropes click and whir to the rhythm of music and young feet as members of Extreme Air ready for an upcoming performance.
The boys and girls practice rhythmic jumping, individual performances and unique team maneuvers that have won them medals at competitions around the country.
The performance jump roping team is now in its 10th year of performing and competing and shows no signs of stopping. The team currently has 23 jumpers, ages 8 through 18.
The traveling competition team grew out of an existing and popular jump rope team at Newmarket Elementary School called the Hot Shots, and many of the members of Extreme Air come from that community. Others joined from surrounding towns, often after seeing the team put on a demonstration.
"We focused Extreme Air as a competition team that competes regionally and nationally," coach and parent Noreen Hodgdon said. Team members have performed in Cape Cod, Detroit and Long Beach, Calif.
The team practices at least once a week at the Newmarket Elementary School and at least one day each weekend at the St. Thomas More gymnasium in Durham.
"Everyone always says when you talk about jump ropes, 'Is that the thing with the two ropes?' It's so much more than that," Hodgdon said.
Each of the students is physically fit and challenged each practice to try new moves that can be physically and mentally exhausting to achieve, requiring speed, strength and stamina.
Samantha Clough, 15, who has been a member of the team since she was in third grade, says she liked the idea of competing around the country and that jump roping is fun. "It's different. It's unique and not a lot of people did it," she said.
Clough said she enjoys the competitions and meeting jump ropers like herself. "Each team has something special about them, and it's fun to share skills," she said. "And we have pins we trade. That's always fun."
Clough said to be good, a jumper has to have patience and coordination.
"And you have to like the sport to actually do the stuff," she said.
Like her older counterpart, Liza Corso, 10, of Newmarket also found Extreme Air through participation with the Hot Shots.
"I think it's really fun to compete, and I like showing my routines and watching other people's routines and seeing skills I can learn," Corso said.
Ethan Zundell, 11, of Newmarket also loves to perform and will sometimes put on his routine for the children at his mother's daycare center.
On Aug. 13, the team took to the Sea Shell Stage during Hampton Beach Children's Week to perform, just weeks after four members returned from Detroit as bronze medalists in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games.
Clough, Amanda Bentley and Megan DeMello of Newmarket joined Hannah Seekins of Portsmouth in representing the team in the Junior Olympic Games and took home a bronze medal in the overall double dutch pentathlon competition based on outstanding performances in each of the five component events.
They competed in the 15-17 age division and earned silver medals in both the double dutch single and the double dutch pairs freestyle events. They won the bronze medal in the double dutch single speed event with a score of 348 jumps in one minute. They also captured the bronze medal in the double dutch speed relay event, which requires all four teammates to alternate turning and jumping for 30 seconds each. In the double dutch power event, the team earned fifth place. The combined scores from all five events earned them the bronze overall medal in double dutch.
AAU jump rope competitions emphasize versatility and reward all-around jump roping skills by adding scores from a combination of speed, power and freestyle events.
Earlier this year, the entire Extreme Air team finished eighth overall out of more than 60 teams during the 2013 USA Jump Rope National Championships in California.
This summer, the team performed before hundreds during Operation: Thank You!, an event in Portsmouth to honor and celebrate the families of the men and women who serve in the nation's armed forces.
The group will perform next during the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, and during the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival at noon Sunday, Sept. 8.
"At first I get kind of nervous, but once I'm out there, I love showing what our team can do," Clough said.
She plans to stay with the team for as long as she can, but knows it is not something she will be able to do forever. "I probably won't do it for the rest of my life, but it will help with other sports, and gives me a cool thing to brag about," Clough said.
New members join the team each year. This year, Extreme Air will host tryouts from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Newmarket Junior/Senior High School.