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Posted February 19, 2013

National Champion Jump Ropers Raise Money for Heart Research

The Los Ranchos Rope n’ Roadrunners are among 37 APS schools participating in the annual Jump Rope for Heart through the American Heart Association.

Natalie Castillo, 10, wears only one shoe as she practices jump rope in the gym at Los Ranchos Elementary. The national champion doesn’t want to miss a practice, despite a twisted ankle, so she soldiers on, working on single, double and team routines and even practicing jump roping while on a pogo stick.

“Coach always told me, ‘You’re going to be a national champion’ and that made me believe I could do it,” said the fourth grader who hopes to defend her title as freestyle jump rope champion at the national Junior Olympics this year.

A dozen of the Los Ranchos Rope n’ Roadrunners competed in the national competition last summer in Houston sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union, and at least that many are preparing for regionals next month in Colorado. As part of the only competitive jump rope team in APS, these young students practice at least three times a week at the school and often at home as well.

Except Miquela Peralta, 10. Though she placed in the top 10 in nationals, Miquela said she can’t practice at home because she lives in a second-floor apartment. Instead, she practices at school and a nearby park.

“Most of our athletes average 5,000 jumps a practice but some of them reach 12,000 jumps observed by our pedometers,” said Coach Todd Aldrich, who also teaches PE at Los Ranchos.

Though competitive, the Los Ranchos kids don’t just jump for medals and ribbons. They – like nearly 1,400 students in 37 schools across the district – are jump roping this month to help raise money for the American Heart Association through Jump Rope for Heart. Last year, APS students raised more than $54,000 for heart research and education, and they’re on track to raising as much if not more this year.

The goal at Los Ranchos is $10,000. Mia Payan, 10, is already doing her share. As the school’s most successful Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser since she was in kindergarten, the fifth grader hopes to beat her record of $550 last year. She’s been doing that by jump roping after mass outside her grandparents’ church and in front of grocery stores.

“My grandma and grandpa are heart patients and I just think I’m doing this for them,” said Mia. “It feels good, like I’m constantly helping people to live.”

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