- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Allison Bartlett is the woman who brought competitive jump roping back to Interior Alaska.

She’s a 30-year-old part-time fourth grade teacher at North Pole Elementary School, a former competitive jumper and a mother of two.

Bartlett started coaching jump ropers in 2008. It was an after-school program a couple of days per week in North Pole. Now it’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group with a website and three coaches, including Bartlett’s brother, Chris Matter, a geologist.

The Far North Jumpers started holding tryouts in 2012, and the team is drawing children from across the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Last year, the Alaska Regional Jump Rope Competition was held in Fairbanks.

Routines by the Far North Jumpers have become common during halftime shows at sporting events, at the Tanana Valley State Fair and in the Golden Days Parade. They also perform at birthday parties.

Bartlett has started bringing jumpers to national competitions in Orlando, Florida.

When shopping at Fred Meyer, people recognize the 2007 University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate as “the jump rope girl.”

Bartlett grew up in small-town Alaska and started jump roping when she was 6. She was a Sitka Skipper before moving to Hoonah, where they didn’t have a jump roping team so Bartlett’s mom started one. Her father worked for the U.S. Forest Service.

Bartlett wound up coaching and mentoring teammates.

“I just loved it,” she said. “I was one of those kids growing up; I wasn’t the best. I just had a passion for it, and I loved it.”

Speed jumping was Bartlett’s specialty. Twelve years ago, she took second place in speed jumping at a national competition with 798 jumps in three minutes. The winner had 804 jumps.

“The world of jump roping now is not what it was when I competed,” Bartlett said. “How much people have improved in the last 20 years just blows me away.”

Years ago, if you broke 300 jumps per minute in speed jumping, you could get in the top 10, Bartlett said.

“Now you probably wouldn’t even qualify in the top 10 if you get 300 jumps in a minute at nationals,” she said.

Last year, five of the Far North Jumpers placed in the top 10 at national competitions in Florida. One of the jumpers placed in nine of the 10 events she competed in. The girl was in tears as she expressed appreciation to Bartlett for her coaching.

“This is why I spend a lot of my time doing this,” Bartlett said. “This is not about jumping rope. It’s about relationships and connecting with those kids.”

Bartlett is reintroducing jump roping in the Interior - there was a team in the past known as the Tanana Turners - and the effort has taken years.

Juneau and Sitka have established jump roping programs but it’s been spotty in the Interior, Bartlett said.

When she started coaching jumpers eight years ago, she would offer jump roping demonstrations to schools and organizations. In the beginning, rarely did anyone call back. Bartlett kept trying.

“People are coming after us now,” she said.

She has aspirations to spread jump roping to Delta Junction and Healy.

“We want to keep growing the sport,” she said. “If we can get more teams up here, how cool would that be?”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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