Wahiawa Jump Club members jump for joy — and for health

PUHI — If jumping rope became an Olympic sport, it would not surprise Laura Morihara.

Morihara, along with her husband Gary Morihara, coaches the Wahiawa Jump Club, whose members arrived here Thursday for a two-day tour around the island, to demonstrate their accomplishments with jump ropes to Kaua‘i’s students.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Laura Morihara said.

“The American Heart Association sponsors us, and the students have a chance to show off what they can do with a jump rope, and explain the health benefits of what they do.” Six students from the Wahiawa Jump Club, a sixth-grader and five seventh-graders, started their tour at Island School, where some of the students watched in amazement as the middle-school students demonstrated their expertise with both the individual as well as long ropes.

“Three of them have been jumping since kindergarten,” Laura Morihara pointed out as her husband Gary prepared the soundtrack for the demonstration.

“The club is about eight years old, and some of the students who were jumping for us are now in college.” Laura Morihara explained that, originally, the club was formed out of Mililani, in the elementary school, but eventually broke off, and is now in Wahiawa Middle School.

Kramer Ichimura, the sole boy jumper, was brought to the forefront as he demonstrated his prowess with the rope, Laura Morihara explaining that jumping rope is not only good exercise, but helps to develop coordination that helps athletes in other sports.

One of his tricks was called the “grass cutter,” as Ichimura mimicked the lawn tool, his body serving as the fulcrum with the rope symbolizing the line that whips grass.

Jump Rope for Heart is part of the national American Heart Association program, and promotes the value of physical activity to elementary-school children while showing them they can contribute to their community’s welfare.

Despite the program being a scant 20 minutes, the six students lost little time introducing themselves with a health-oriented presentation, explaining the importance of a healthy heart.

According to statistics from the American Heart Association, more than nine million children are overweight, and 36 percent get no exercise.

The report goes on to say that obesity among the nation’s youth has tripled in the past 15 years, and obesity is the fastest-growing cause of illness and death in the United States.

Cardiovascular disease ranks as the No. 3 cause of death for children under age 15, and, for the first time in history, children’s life spans are predicted to be less than their parents because of inactivity and obesity-related illnesses.

Cathy Shanks, who recently left the Kaua‘i office of the American Heart Association, has been in the forefront of efforts at Kaua‘i’s school level to have children participate in “Jump Rope for Heart,” not so much for the funds it generates, but to allow the students to become involved in physical activity.

In addition to routines involving both solo and tandem jumpers, the Wahiawa Jump Club team members invited students from the audience to join them in the long rope in a “pick-up-the-coin” event, where the student would be avoiding the rope while attempting to pick up a coin on the floor.

Two Island School fourth-graders were able to grab coins successfully while avoiding the swinging rope.

Team members include Jackie Kim, Toe Motu, the only sixth grader on the team, Maya Groves, Tatiana Alailima, Ichimura, and Rachel Morihara.

Thursday’s schedule saw the team visit six schools, including Island School, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Kalaheo School, Eleele School, St. Theresa’s School, and Waimea Canyon School.

Friday’s schedule had the team starting at Wilcox Elementary School before moving on to Kapa‘a Elementary, St. Catherine School, Kilauea School, and ending at the Hanalei School A-Plus program.

Laura Morihara said they now have jump rope programs in the Junior Olympics program, and it would not surprise her if, within the next 10 years, jump rope becomes an Olympic sport.

Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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