Jumping to the big leagues: Lewistown Hoppers compete in Junior Olympics

From left, Helen Bolton, Natalie Day, Maclaine Day, Madelyn Kirsch, Ethan Day, Zoe Seaford, Alix Beattie (of Idaho) and Owen Day celebrate a job well done at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Detroit, Michigan last month.
Photo courtesy of Maclaine Day

Helen Bolton and Owen Day perform their single rope pair freestyle act Monday afternoon.
Photo by Charlie Denison

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Last month, the Lewistown Hoppers took a trip of a lifetime together.

That’s not often what people call a trip to Detroit, Michigan, but Motor City was a special destination for them this summer, as it played host to the 51st annual Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games.

According to hopper coach and team member Maclaine Day, the AAU Junior Olympic Games is the “largest multi-sport event in the United States.” Eighteen sports were represented during the two weeks of competition, including wrestling, volleyball, trampoline, cup stacking and more.

Although Junior Olympians have competed in jump rope for more than two decades, this is Lewistown’s first time competing, and they were the only team from Montana represented at this year’s Junior Olympics.

This was not an easy road for the Hoppers, as they had to qualify for the Olympics in Denver back in April. They impressed the judges and even impressed themselves. Shocked to have the chance to go to Junior Olympics, they didn’t want to take the opportunity for granted. They wanted to do their best and make Central Montana proud.

Mission accomplished.

Maclaine, her sister Natalie, brothers Ethan and Owen, Madelyn Kirsch, Alix Beattie, Zoe Seaford and Helen Bolton performed remarkably well, winning medals for 22 events.

“It was a very gratifying experience,” said Bolton, who won silver and bronze medals for Double Dutch.

Bolton came to hopping as a way to let her energy out.

“I’ve always needed something to do because I can’t sit still for too long,” she said. “Jump roping seemed to fit really nicely.”

Bolton has only been on the team for two years, and having this experience has really been remarkable for her.

“This was such a fun accomplishment,” she said. “It was really wonderful and I also got a lot out of watching other people. It was amazing to just be in the same room with so many people and so many different skill levels.”

“It was a really good learning experience,” Ethan said. “It was our first year at a national level competition and we got a lot out of it.”

The team also grew a lot together and became a together unit, Lorraine said.

“There was a lot of good team bonding,” she said, getting a laugh from many of the hoppers, who recalled elements of the trip that strengthened their friendships.

 

Stepping Up

Ranging from 10 years of age to 21 years of age, the Hoppers competed in a wide variety of age categories, and did well in each. In fact, Maclaine said every member of the team placed in at least one of their respective events, and all team members medaled in at least two of their events.

Some team members – such as Natalie – even broke previous personal records.

Coach Lorraine Day said she couldn’t be happier with the team’s performance.

“Everyone should feel good with how they represented Central Montana. They really gave their all.”

This is especially the case when it came to how conditioned they were before competition.

“We were so conditioned the actual competition almost felt like a vacation,” Ethan joked.

“I can honestly say every one of these kids who trained for this event is a true athlete,” Lorraine said. “Like Ethan told me: it came at a high price, but it was worth it.”

Not only did the team perform well, but they also had an excellent experience together, building team camaraderie and finding inspiration for success both as Junior Olympians and as individuals.

Carl Lewis, a gold-medal-winning runner best known for his performance in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, fired up the Hoppers before they left Detroit, instilling in them confidence and motivation.

Lewis told the large group of Junior Olympians you are “always a winner if you make it to the end” and to “do the best they can do all the time.”

Hearing a message from someone of his caliber really meant a lot to the Hoppers.

“He’s like the Michael Phelps of running,” Owen said.

Lewis was just the icing on the cake, Lorraine said, as the trip had too many highlights to count.

“This was such a great experience for the kids,” Lorraine said. “It was kind of overwhelming being there.”

“There were more than 15,000 participants,” Maclaine added.

Of the 15,000, only 120 were there for jump rope, but those 120 came from all over the country.

“People came from Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, two teams from Canada, and, then, Montana, of course,” Maclaine said.

Idaho was represented, too, thanks to Alix Beattie, who was sent to the Lewistown Hoppers to give the team one more person for Double Dutch.

“We are really close with the Idaho team,” Lorraine said, “and [Beattie] really wanted to compete since she wasn’t able to go to nationals after her partner broke her arm, so it was a real win-win for everybody.”

 

A long time coming

Mother of Maclaine, Natalie, Ethan and Owen, Lorraine founded the Lewistown Hoppers 10 years ago, and she can’t believe how much it’s taken off.

She also can’t believe the skill level of her young athletes, which she credits largely to having Maclaine as a coach and a participant.

Maclaine, too, can’t believe how much of a passion hopping has become for the whole family.

“This really started as just something to do after school,” she said.

“We rented a room at the Civic Center and one thing led to another,” Lorraine said. “I got the kids organized under U.S.A. jump rope and the last few years we’ve been under AAU, and they’ve been so good to us. They really don’t hold back, from their ribbons to their medals. They spoil their kids.”

Day said she is tremendously thankful to the community for all they did to make this trip possible, as more than $6,000 was raised, be it from the jump-a-thon or jump rope camp, which they offered at their practice spot and instructed themselves.

“We really couldn’t have done this without support,” Lorraine said. “Everything really came together.”

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