Wilde Lake senior takes top prize for jumping rope


July 21, 1999|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN MOST of us think of jump rope, images of energetic children skipping rope on the sidewalk or the playground come to mind. But for members of the Kangaroo Kids, a Howard County precision jump rope team, it means hours of practice in preparation for national and international competitions.

Marissa Schwartz, a 17- year-old senior at Wilde Lake High School, practices jumping rope about 14 hours a week. Marissa's dedication to the sport helped her capture a trophy and a title, Grand National Champion, at the U.S. Amateur Jump Rope Championships last month at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The competition will air on ESPN this summer.

Marissa hopes that jump rope competitions will one day be included in the Olympics. "Just like any other sport that people aren't familiar with, they don't know how exciting it can be," she said.

Marissa wasn't the only local winner at the national competition. Amanda Ramsey of Clemens Crossing brought home the silver medal in the girls 15-17 freestyle competition. Nicole Lumpkin of Sewell's Orchard was the gold medalist in girls 12-14 freestyle. T. J. Simons and Nicole took silver in 12-14 pairs freestyle. Jimmy McCleary, Jasmine Evans, Marissa and Amanda won the bronze medal in the 15-17 double dutch pairs speed competition.

An international jump rope competition, the Pan-American Championships, was held last week in Windsor, Ontario. The Kangaroo Kids enlisted the help of two girls from the Jumping Buddies -- a precision team from Virginia -- to compete in the Octathelon Events Junior Mixed Division against other teams from the United States, Belgium, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Octathelon events include single rope speed relay, double dutch power relay, pairs freestyle and double dutch pairs freestyle events.

Kangaroo Kids/Jumping Buddies 1 team members were Marissa, Jimmy and Amanda of Howard County and April Feciura of Virginia. Kangaroo Kids/Jumping Buddies 2 team members were Katherine Diamond, Tori Lancaster and Robby Moylan -- all of Howard County -- and Paige Salas of Virginia. Team 1 took first place in the Octathelon while team 2 took third place.

Jimmy, 17, a senior at Long Reach High School, won the gold medal in the Masters Division for males 15 and older.

Amanda has been selected to compete in the World Championships along with 49 other American jumpers. The World Championships will be held in October in St. Louis.

Chess king

"People conjecture if chess is an art, a science, a game or a sport," says Daniel Malkiel, 18, a resident of Wilde Lake. He says he prefers to think of chess as a "mental sport."

Malkiel joined 1,500 other chess players in Philadelphia this monthto compete in the World Open, among the largest chess tournaments in the world. Malkiel tied for first place in his ratings class, under 1800.

In competition, beginners may be rated as low as 600, experts are rated around 2000 and masters have a rating in the 2200 range. Malkiel expects his rating to increase to the expert level after his victory at the World Open.

Although he learned to play chess at about age 6, Malkiel says his interest in the game was sparked three years ago during a friendly competition with Wilde Lake classmate Scott Webster. "We were in a free-period class, and Scott asked me if I wanted to play. We played a few games, and I beat him pretty badly every time," Malkiel says.

"Scott went home and read some of his dad's chess books, and he beat me the next time we played," he says. "So I got some books, and our competition went back and forth."

Malkiel started the Wilde Lake High School Chess Club and joined the Howard County Chess Club to sharpen his skills. "There's a lot of things I like about chess," he says. "It's beautiful, it's logic, it's exciting and fun," he says. "Playing and understanding the game can make you happy."

As a Humanities Scholar at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on a full scholarship, Malkiel doesn't need the $7,500 prize money from his World Open win for tuition. He says he will invest some of his winnings and use the rest to buy a car.

"There are professional chess players," he says, "but it's very difficult to make a living at it because the prizes aren't that big and it's so hard to win."

Malkiel compares professional chess tournament players to gamblers. "A lot of elements go into who's going to win," he says. "There's so much left up to chance, like who's there and who you end up playing."

Malkiel says the Grand Masters, rated 2400-2800, usually coach or write books to bolster their income. "But I don't play for the money," he says. "I play chess for the fun of it."

Court of Honor

Boy Scout Troop 649 held its Court of Honor last month at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center. Scoutmaster Pat Roth honored 19 Scouts who completed all the requirements for their first rank -- Scout.

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