Grovetown Elementary pupils are jumping for joy. They've been doing it since the 1998-99 school year.
Twenty-six Grovetown children ranging from first to fifth grade are part of the Grovetown Jumping Jaguars, a jump-rope team started by the school's physical education teachers , Alex Heider and Rae Izzo.
"We wanted to put together something for the kids here at the elementary school," Heider said. "It gives them an opportunity to be part of a team."
The team practices once a week and has performed their six-minute jump-rope routine at some fairly large venues.
The children have performed at halftime of basketball games at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and the University of South Carolina. USC Aiken and Augusta State also have welcomed the jumping elementary pupils.
At the University of South Carolina home-opener this season, the Jumping Jaguars put on their halftime routine for the fourth consecutive year in front of Gamecocks fans.
"The great thing about it is it gives our students the opportunity to go places and do things that they may never get an opportunity to do," Heider said. "They love it and enjoy it."
The jump-rope routine features more than skipping rope. Gymnastics tumbling and several skill-requiring tricks also are part of the show. One of the highlights, a trick called the Rainbow, involves fifth-grader Shayna Turbovsky leaping over her own rope in addition to another rope held by her teammates. The entire crew jumps together over a third rope held by the coaches.
"I'm in the middle with the short rope," Turbovsky said. "I love it. It's not that hard, but you have to have good feet."
Another jumper, Shelby Jennings, first saw the group perform when her older brother Jarred was on the team. She became old enough to join the team this year, and the first-grader performed earlier this month at halftime of the Greenbrier vs. Evans game.
"There was a lot of people there. I got a little nervous, but I did good," she said.
After eight years of leading the Grovetown Elementary Jumping Jaguars, Heider said he's seen past jumpers go on to successful high school careers including, Harlem High School football star tailback Barry St. John.
The team is not funded by Grovetown Elementary, Heider said, but does receive some help from the Parent-Teacher Organization. The rest of the financial obligations are taken care of by team fund raisers and donations.
"We raise our own funds to help pay for uniforms and other costs," Heiden said. "After each halftime performance we go into the stands with buckets to fill. The audiences have been very gracious."
The Grovetown Jumping Jaguars will next perform at halftime of the USC Aiken men's and women's basketball games Jan. 14. The team also is scheduled to perform at the Greenbrier basketball games Feb. 3 and the Greenbrier soccer game March 25.
No matter where they perform, Izzo said, the program has produced big smiles for the children and their families.
"The parents love it," she said. "We enjoy it because it's non competitive. The kids enjoy it to put smiles on people's faces."CutlinePhoto by Michael Holahan
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