Four Southside friends finish a decade-long jump roping journey with Indy Air Bears
Over the course of 10 years, four Southside friends have formed an unbreakable bond over the sport of jump rope. Having graduated from high school this year, their jumping journey is coming to an end this summer.
Katie Tyson, Allison Taylor, Grace LaVier and Elise McQueen were inspired to join the Indy Air Bears in second grade because the tricks and routines of the jump roping team looked cool.
“When we were little, we thought it would be something fun,” Taylor said. “Once we got older, we saw everything that came with it and that there were lots of opportunities to travel and compete. We are in love with that stuff.”
Tyson attended Center Grove schools. Taylor, LaVier and McQueen went to Franklin Central schools. By middle school, it was just the four of them in their grade level. Soon, they began to practice at each others houses. Practices became sleepovers, which became birthday celebrations, which evolved into them vacationing together.
“I like how we’ve pretty much grown up together,Tyson said. “We all started in elementary school, being not the best of friends, but when we were forced to be together one year, it’s blossomed into the best friendships that I have.”
The girls excel in Double Dutch, with Tyson and Taylor as “master turners” and McQueen and LaVier as jumpers.
“The four of them, I call them the siamese quadruplets sometimes,” said coach, Niki Glover. “They all jump and turn ropes. To be good in Double Dutch, you can do flips but if there’s no one to turn for you, you’re no good. (Two) are extremely awesome turners. (Two) are extremely awesome jumpers. Grace levitates. She can jump on her back in double dutch. They just gelled as a Double Dutch group. From there, it’s amazing the dedication of these four. They’re sick, they’re there. Katie has foot surgery but she’s jumping on one foot for three weeks. They just have a fever.”
Indy Air Bears practices out of Arlington Elementary in Franklin Township, and has competed and performed all over the world.
“When you’re little, you like watching shows,” Tyson said. “You see all the cool stuff. Then you start to do it and going to competitions. It changes from watching to trying to be that person that can do a lot of cool stuff.”
Though the four best friends are all different, LaVier said their values are all similar. Outside of jump rope, they like staying active and doing things such as soccer, zip lining or frisbee. They enjoy watching jump rope videos to learn new tricks, or their old videos to laugh at themselves.
“During the summer we practice a lot more,” Tyson said. “We see each other 24/7 then. Outside of here, we probably spend one day together a week. We spent a whole week together on spring break.”
They event went to junior prom together, taking some time to jump rope in their prom dresses. The four skipped their senior prom for an Indy Air Bears competition.
“It all culminates with us having our (graduation) open house together, spending the last few days of summer together,” Tyson said.
The friends said it’s been different this year, being a senior.
“This year, we’re trying to appreciate the little things more,” Taylor said. “Every show, we’ve made sure it’s better than before.”
The teammates won in their age group at the Pan American Championships last year. Coming off of that win, they were optimistic for 2017.
Their year finished with the World Jump Rope Federation’s World Championships the first week of July. The five-day competition involved 800 jumpers from 31 countries. Indy Air Bears had 22 team members at the championship. Tyson and Taylor, along with teammates Morgan Golay and Taylor Nicholson (of the Avon Aerial Orioles) earned first place in team freestyle. LaVier, McQueen and teammates Dante Agresta and Eric Hinojosa earned second place in the team freestyle.
“We (were) watching a lot more videos and spending a lot more time practicing the hard tricks,” Tyson said. “It being our last year, we focused on making friends with other teams. Now we have international friends.”
LaVier and McQueen will attend Ball State University in the fall. Taylor will attend University of Indianapolis. Tyson will attend IUPUI.
“I’ve learned a lot of lessons and life-skills from jump rope,” LaVier said. “When people graduate and leave the team, young people step up to take the lead. I’ve learned a lot about leadership and how it’s most important to help the people around you. That will help you in the end.”
Collegiate-level jump rope is just forming, Tyson said, but the teammates have plans to come back and help teach and mentor the younger group with Indy Air Bears. That next group of young leaders has already begun to demonstrate their capabilities.
“There’s already a group of guys ready to kick us out,” Tyson said.
All were unanimous in the sentiment that they will miss the friendships they have formed the most – not just between the four of them, but the entire team.
“We’re all like family,” Taylor said. “You can count on anybody here to do anything for you. We spend so much time together. We’re all super close. I value these friendships so much.”