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Mars teens jumping their way to Thanksgiving parade

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 3:57 p.m.
From left, Natalie Welsh, Cassie McKernan, Maggie McKernan and Rachel McKernan practice before heading to New York City to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.The Mars students, all members of the Mars Stars Jump Rope Team, will perform with a 200-member jump rope team. Submitted
Mars Area students (from left) Rachel McKernan, Cassie McKernan, Natalie Welsh and Maggie McKernan will join the national J.U.M.P. jump rope team in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Submitted

It's not an Easter parade that four Butler County teens will be hopping, skipping and jumping their way through on Thursday.

The four girls, all members of the Mars Stars jump rope team, will join about 200 other jumpers at the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in a nearly non-stop 2.8 mile display of jumps, crosses, sideswings and legovers.

“Coaches have compared it to a marathon,” Mars senior Maggie Mc-Kernan, 17, said. “There's definitely a lot of work involved.”

Maggie, along with 15-year-old twin sisters Cassie McKernan and Rachel McKernan, ninth-graders, and Natalie Welsh, 13, an eighth-grader, are members of the Mars Stars Competitive Double Dutch Team, which has been together for nearly six years.

In May, the girls took first place for best overall double dutch team, ages 15-17, at the AAU Maryland Open Jump Rope Regional Qualifying Tournament, along with several other honors.

Because of their accomplishments, the girls were invited by the national Jumpers United for Macy's Parade, or JUMP, organized by the Heartbeats Jump Rope Team in Cleveland, to join the Manhattan holiday extravaganza.

“We are just so grateful for the opportunity,” Maggie McKernan said. “We're not only showcasing our skills, but joining other great jumpers who share our passion from around the country.”

Maggie said that since August, the foursome has been learning the routine they'll perform in the parade, using a video of the routine online for them to view. They've been rehearsing in the parking lot of Mars Area Elementary School and elsewhere.

The performers will rotate along the parade route, so at some point, the Mars girls will appear at the front of the group. The 200 members will perform to the song “I Need Your Love,” by Calvin Harris, featuring Ellie Goulding.

They won't, however, be among about 70 performers who will perform a routine on live television in front of Macy's flagship store at Broadway and 34th Street. Maggie said they will be part of a shorter segment that also will be broadcast.

The girls are planning to visit the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and other sights. They'll join the other jumpers on Tuesday to practice as a group.

“We're looking at this as a family vacation,” Laurie McKernan said, the three girls' mother. “I've very proud of them. I know they worked hard at this, and they have a passion for jumping rope.”

“It's such an awesome experience,” said Pam Best, the girls' jump rope coach and Mars Area Elementary health and physical education teacher. “All four of them are very self-directed and good kids and leaders. I can't wait until they get back to share the experience.”

The 87th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade begins at 9 a.m. Thursday. It will be broadcast on WPXI-TV.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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