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Young women prepare for parade performance

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Despite the heat in August and the cold, wind and rain of November, four area young women have jumped rope.

Twice a week since the summer, Center Grove High School junior Mallory Burnett and three of her jump-rope teammates have circled the parking lot outside their practice gym for at least an hour. They are preparing for Nov. 28, when they’ll jump the entire length of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Burnett, 16, and the three other members of the Indy Air Bears team will jump-rope along the 2.5-mile parade route with 200 other jumpers from all over the country.

Since the girls were chosen in July to perform in the parade, they’ve come to team practices early to jump around the parking lot of Arlington Elementary School in Indianapolis, where practice is conducted. The long, outdoor sessions are an effort to provide them the endurance they’ll need to stand the length of the route and all possible weather, including the cold, rain and snow, Indy Air Bears coach Niki Glover said.

All 200 jump-ropers, who will meet in New York City two days before the parade and practice together, will have to keep pace with the parade. If the procession stops, they’ll continue jumping the routine in place. If the parade speeds up, they will walk and catch up while side swinging the ropes around their bodies, according to Pam Evans, Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade coordinator.

Glover chose the four girls — Burnett, Hailey Enos, 18, of Indianapolis, Jessica Evinger, 20, of Indianapolis, and Hannah Nuthak, 18, of Shelbyville — because of their advanced levels of experience and because they have the stamina to jump through the three-hour parade, Glover said. The girls had to pay their own way to New York City for the event.

In addition to jumping the length of the parade, the four were chosen with 68 other jumpers to possibly perform a one-minute routine for a post-parade TV spot at the end of the march. Only certain parade acts are chosen for these televised, individual performances, and the team won’t know until that day if they’ve been selected, Evans said.

The moves the jumpers will perform during the parade, including basic jog steps and the can-can, are simple compared to some of the tricks in the one-minute performance, she said.

One trick, called the frog, involves jumping into a handstand, then pushing back out and bringing the rope underneath their bodies as they come back to standing, she said.

Evans, the coach of the Ohio-based Heartbeats team, received applications from more than 500 jump-ropers who wanted to participate in the parade. She narrowed the pool of candidates by allowing only a small number from each team. Only those who had won national or world competition medals were asked to perform in the one-minute TV spot.

Burnett and the three Indy Air Bears chosen were all advanced enough that they didn’t have to learn any of the moves for the performances, only how to do them in unison, Glover said.

Burnett, who can jump a rope 82 times in 30 seconds on one leg, joined the Indy Air Bears when she was 7. She saw the team perform at her elementary school and fell in love with the whirl of legs, arms and ropes, she said.

In middle school, she started to improve and earned third place in double Dutch with her teammates at the Grand World Championship this year.

People don’t understand her passion for jump-rope, usually a kid’s game, until they see a video of competition routines, she said.

“There are all kinds of things you would never think could be done with jump ropes,” she said. “You get yourself all messed up and then find a way to make it work.”

Burnett’s family will push their Thanksgiving plans back so she can perform in the parade. The family usually watches the event each year, and it will be strange to be in the parade rather than viewing it, she said. Her mom will join her in New York City as a chaperone, but the rest of her family will have to watch on TV, she said.

With the amount of practicing they’ve done around the parking lot — at least a mile and a half twice a week — the team is as ready as they’ll ever be for the three-hour parade, Burnett said.

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