Eight members of a jump rope team originally formed as an American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart demonstration team and coached by AHA’s director of policy research Laurie Whitsel performed for millions at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Allison White, Emily Long, Hannah Long, Amy Whitsel, Christian Whitsel, Isabelle Saloom, Madelyn Glista and Morgan Glista are members of the HT High Flyers, based in Ligonier, Pa. They were selected to join the 200-person Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade, which included other jumpers from across the country.

J.U.M.P. performed along the 2.5-mile parade and was featured in a one-minute live segment on the television broadcast.

Head coach Laurie Whitsel said the group started training in July to learn the sequence for the parade route route that wound through New York City.

The young jumpers were proud to be jump rope ambassadors and excited to showcase years of hard work, while representing the HT High Flyers and their community.

“It’s amazing not just to be in front of millions of people -that is incredible – but also just to share this sport that we love so much. Because a lot of people out there have no idea what jump rope is. They see it as just another hobby. But whenever they see us do the things we do, they can realize it’s as much a sport as anything. And it’s even more than a sport to anyone that does it.” said 15-year-old Emily Long.

Whitsel started the HT High Flyers jump rope team 11 years ago at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Ligonier, Pa. as a demonstration team for the AHA.

Coaching the HT High Flyers is a perfect complement to her work with the AHA, encouraging nutrition, cardiovascular health and fitness.

“I can think of nothing better for the promoting of lifetime physical activity than the sport of jump rope,” Whitsel said.

Whitsel’s daughter Amy, who is now 17, has been jumping since she was five, watching her mom jump rope in the garage.

“Jump rope has just been a part of my life ever since and I can’t imagine my life without it,” she said.”

About three years ago, Holy Trinity partnered with the Ligonier Valley YMCA, which formally adopted the HT High Flyers as a YMCA program and opened it to all area youths with active memberships.

Since the team’s inception, hundreds of boys and girls have jumped as part of the HT High Flyers. The current team is comprised of 45 boys and girls, ranging from elementary to high school, plus one four-year-old member and a college freshman.

Now an award-winning athletic team, the HT High Flyers channel their hard work, dedication and time into year-round demonstrations, competitions and education.

They perform throughout the country at halftime shows, museums, and events on Capitol Hill, the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They’ve had the chance to travel all over the U.S. and to other countries because of this sport.” said Whitsel.

The HT High Flyers boast an impressive resume, competing at regional, national and international levels, winning numerous titles and setting records. Members have won overall gold medals at the AAU Junior Olympics and USA Jump Rope National Championship, and the team was named 2012 Grand National Champions in Double Dutch Freestyle and 2013 Grand National Champions in both Individual and Pairs Freestyle.

Adapted from an article published in the Latrobe Bulletin.