FLOWER MOUND -- Christen LaChance, 16, has been skipping rope since she was in third grade.
But LaChance, a junior at Colleyville Heritage High School, doesn't skip just any rope. She does tricks on her rope, like handstands and back tucks. She hops double Dutch and throws in kicks and flips.
And she does it so fast that the rope, between her feet and the sky, becomes invisible.
"Speed is about going as fast as you can," LaChance said at practice at Forestwood Middle School.
LaChance and seven teammates, members of HFS Jump Force of Euless, will represent Team USA at the International Rope Skipping Federation's world championships in London in July. The team, whose members are ages 13 to 23, qualified for the trip at the national competition in Boise, Idaho. Competing against the best U.S. jumpers, Jump Force earned third place in the master division, and two team members earned top honors.
Only the best in the world will compete in London, and LaChance and her teammates -- two boys and five girls -- are pumped up, parents and coaches said.
"For all of them, jumping is a big part of their lives," said Marie LaChance of Euless, Christen LaChance's mother and one of the coaches. "To represent Team USA and to compete against all the other teams around the world, it's exciting for them."
Some of the teammates have known one another since kindergarten, she said, so they have built a level of trust and a commitment to the sport that bonds them.
It's clear that jumpers have one common goal: to soar at their sport.
On Wednesday afternoon, three teammates, all 17-year-old juniors at Colleyville Heritage, joined to do jump stunts with the eggbeater double Dutch rope.
Mary Potts and Bailey Hamelwright swung the ropes. As they did, Peyton Richards performed handstands and kicks.
All three girls had a look of determination, working to improvise tricks, Marie LaChance said.
That's because judges like performances that mesh creativity with skill, she said. For example, speed relays on a jump rope can rack up points. But the scorecard will overflow with points if a jumper throws in acrobatics, known as freestyle.
"Jumping is dance and gymnastics with a rope,"' Christen LaChance said.
Jump-roping competitions date to the 1960s. The National Double Dutch League was established in 1973, and champions from the dual-rope tournament got a lot of exposure by appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
The first international rope-skipping tournament was held in Colorado in 1982, records show. The international federation was formed in the late 1990s.
In Texas, the sport has drawn a small but burgeoning group of followers, Jump Force members say. They describe it as a "friendly" sport because its teams tend to be tight-knit. Athletes compete against, but also cheer for, one another. Jump Force members have friends on other teams and share their knowledge with them.
"That's why I like my sport so much," Christen LaChance said. "You don't see gymnasts teaching other gymnasts new tricks or how to do moves. We want to make the sport grow, so we're on the floor cheering for other teams and others to do well."
To learn elaborate tricks, Jump Force members practice 15 to 25 hours a week, parents said. Most have been jumping since age 8. Once you start jumping, it's difficult to stop, team members said.
That's been the case with the team's youngest member, 13-year-old Brad Anthe, his mom said. He started jumping about 21/2 years ago.
"He instantly loved it," said Patty Anthe, whose son is an eighth-grader at Forestwood. "I've never seen him so passionate about anything."
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705