Heartbeaters step up to nationals

‘Wooo-hooo! Good, good, good!” cheered Takhini Heartbeaters coach Judy Ratcliffe at an early morning practice Tuesday.

‘Wooo-hooo! Good, good, good!” cheered Takhini Heartbeaters coach Judy Ratcliffe at an early morning practice Tuesday.

Then, she sighed with relief. “That was our bugbear,” she said, smiling.

She was speaking of one of the more difficult tricks in the world of double-dutch pairs skipping — the revered and dreaded side-by-side push-up.

The mainstream foursome of Amanda Keleher, Taylor Forsgren, Erin Borgford and Tyler Weins has been working on that move for months, and Tuesday morning, they pulled it off.

They had to, said Ratcliffe.

For the side-by-side push-up is a mandatory component at this weekend’s BC/Yukon provincial championships in Abbotsford.

And the move has to be performed there before the group moves on to the national championships in May in Edmonton.

“We already bought the plane tickets to nationals,” laughed Ratcliffe. “But we’re the only mixed team in this age group, so I thought we were kind of assured a spot.

“They had minimum requirements before, but they haven’t always stuck to them, but they said at a board meeting earlier this year, that they were going to stick by the minimum requirements.”

Though the team has been to the provincials about seven times before, this will be its first national championship. It has qualified in the past, but only this year were the nationals slated for a relatively close city.

“You have to make the decision to go to nationals in the fall, because you can’t raise that kind of money in a month,” said Ratcliffe.

Between the provincials and the nationals, the Takhini Heartbeaters had to raise nearly $15,000.

In total, nine skippers — four mainstream and five rookies — will compete at the provincials, while just four will travel on to nationals.

The training has been a six-times-a-week endeavour, said Ratcliffe. But the team members need all the practice they can get because they don’t get to compete much.

“We don’t see what other kids do,” said Ratcliffe. “I think the kids are more excited than nervous.”

As for her, well, she was worried at first, mostly about the double-dutch routines, but now it’s all coming together nicely, she said.

“Whatever will be will be. It’s not that they haven’t worked hard enough, that’s for sure.”

The biggest challenge, in fact, hasn’t been the difficult tricks and routines.

“Working together has probably been the hardest thing for them to learn, but it’s a good life skill,” she said.

Karen James, 12, has been skipping at Takhini for two years. Though she does it for the fun and exercise, she said, the competitive factor now has added a whole new dimension to her favourite pastime.

This will be her first time at provincials. “I’m going to ignore the judges and pretend they’re not there,” said James.

It will also be a first for 10-year-old Rebecca Dunstan.

“I get butterflies, lots of butterflies,” she said, adding that her favourite trick is the “double-under matador.”

Just then, the bell rang and the skippers, both mainstream and rookie, scampered off to class.

The Heartbeaters program has been around for a dozen years and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Heart and Stroke Foundation through its annual Jump Rope for Heart event.

They also compete at various events and travel around the territory showcasing their skills at schools and events.

The number of skippers has ebbed and flowed over the years, but interest seems to be on the rise, said Ratcliffe.

Now there are skipping clubs at Ecole Emilie Tremblay, Jack Hulland and Whitehorse Elementary.

“It really comes and goes,” said Ratcliffe. “It’s a big commitment, especially for young kids.”