TROY — Madison Dixon has been on all sides of the “human jump rope” trick — including being the actual human jump tope.
Troy Junior High School eighth graders Dixon, 14, and Sophie Fong, 13, have been a part of the Troy Pop Rocks jump rope team since they were third graders. Jolee Lowman, 13, joined the team in sixth grade after she was inspired by the team’s athletic performances at her elementary school as part of Jump for the Heart campaigns.
The three girls will be performing their last local show Friday on their home court at the Troy High School gymnasium during half-time of the boy’s varsity basketball game against Piqua. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. The three will end their Pop Rocks careers performing March 23 at the Ohio High School Athletic Association boys basketball state tournament.
The team, which was founded by Josh Oakes, a physical education teacher at Heywood and Hook elementary schools in Troy, originally started as an after-school activity for a handful of jumpers. That first season culminated in a single performance in front of friends and family members. Since then, the team has grown to include between 25-29 jumpers and roughly 20 performances every year. The team currently is composed of members in grades 3-8.
In addition to local high schools, the team also performs at colleges including University of Louisville, Michigan State, University of Dayton, Virginia Tech and University of Toledo this season.
Dixon remembers being the first one on the team to take part as the “rope” in the crowd-wowing trick that stuns many spectators.
“My favorite trick of all time probably had to be my first two years when I was the human jump rope when I was younger,” Dixon said. “It was one of the tricks that I loved to practice. It’s scary at first because you are being thrown around by two junior high kids that you are just now meeting … performing that is something our team is known for and something we’ve done every year and being in that spotlight is fun — I’ve been a jumper and a human so its been cool.”
Lowman said, “I like seeing how the crowd react to our big stunts. You see people just shake their heads like there’s no way we can do it, and then when we complete the trick they are just stunned and that’s been fun to see.”
“When you see how the crowd reacts, that’s my favorite part,” Fong said. “You see thousands of people cheering for you.”
All three agreed that the Centerville High School crowd was by far their favorite while each had their various college crowd reactions including Michigan State and their first performance at Wittenberg University as highlights.
“All the high schools are pretty good, but Centerville was pretty cool,” Fong said.
Each one of the Pop Rocks shared how being on the team built their confidence on and off the court.
“Being on the team has changed me. I used to be extremely shy. I hated social situation. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, but being on this team forced me to speak up for what I like and give my opinion,” Dixon said. “The younger jumpers, I now get to lead them and show them what to do and how to act — that’s one of the things I’m going to miss is the girls. They are more than a team, they are family.”
Lowman said she’ll miss the younger students on the team as well.
“It’s been really cool to help pass down this legacy, if you will, to the younger jumpers … it’s been really cool to teach them as we got older,” she said. “I used to look up to Pop Rocks when I was little, and I still do, but now I have to represent this team because … I’m old.”
Lowman’s specialty includes turns and group tricks as well as keeping the team spirits high.
“I do almost every single group trick,” Lowman said. “I help regulate the team spirit since I’m an eighth grader, which is really hard to do since there are three of us.”
The trio agreed the friendships formed through hours of practice and performance, with Lowman saying, “the friends we’ve made in jump rope will be friends for life.”
The three girls agreed that getting to travel and perform at college campus around the region was a highlight of their experience as a Pop Rock.
Dixon said Ohio University and Ohio State University were her favorite stops with time to tour the campus. Fong said Ohio State was her favorite, as well as the local shows.
“My favorite performances now are in Troy because my friends can come, but when I was little I always liked Ohio State because my family is big on that,” Fong said.
Once the school year begins, organized team practices take up to 10 hours per week getting ready for the performance season, which typically begins in early December. Practices continue through the season, which wraps up in March.
The trio said they’ve been able to be part of the popular performance group with a lot of support from their families.
“My mom has never missed a performance,” Fong said.
On Thursday, Lowman received a candy bar bouquet from her mother Telissa Adkins during the school day with a card that read “Determination today, success tomorrow. To a fabulous jump rope career. Love, Mom”