Fast Track Fliers

Iselin Suomala and Morgen Crabtree work on doubles during a Fast Track Fliers jump-rope session in the shelter at Berth 3 on May 7. Miki Suomala and Katy Hook swung the jump-rope for the girls. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

In the “Fast Track Fliers” club, students of all ages and ability levels can have fun and stay active by learning how to jump rope or practice their skills with friends.

The club is open to all Fast Track students, regardless of prior jump rope experience, Fast Track Coordinator Lori Ortiz told the Daily News during a Friday phone interview.

Ortiz started the club in 2019 as a way to bring local homeschool students together for an inclusive activity that could be continued at home with their parents and family.

“I was just trying to think of activities that could bring homeschool kids together but that would accommodate all ages and all abilities,” Ortiz said of the program’s origins. “ And jump rope is perfect for that.”

The club also provides a stress-free activity that is appropriate for a wide range of students.

“When homeschool families come to an activity, it’s hard to drop off  (just) your fourth-grader,” she explained. “You have your sixth-grader, your fourth-grader, and your toddler. So it’s super cool when they can all participate.”

The “Fast Track Fliers” program took a break in 2020 due to the pandemic. The club started meeting for its two week run in late April, with morning meretings on Mondays and Fridays.

This year, in order to maintain social distancing, Ortiz arranged with the City ofKetchikan Port and Harbors  Department for the club’s venue to switch from Ketchikan High School to the shelter at Berth 3, with the young participants wearing masks as they jump rope and learn new tricks.

“And they (Port and Harbors) were like sure, ‘But when it’s sunny, go out on the berth and let Ketchikan be happy about kids jumping,’” she said.

About 16 students are participating in Fast Track Fliers this year, and according to Ortiz, there were three “types” of students in the club at the beginning.

“It’s kind of a really novice group, kids who at least knew how to skip, and then some who knew tricks,” she said.

Students have the option to jump into the club at any point.

“We kept the window open, so even if you didn't come the first time, you were able to fold into it.”

Some of the students came into the program a little more hesitant, but quickly opened up.

“They already learned some things the first day that made them ready to come back the second day, and they’ve taken off from then,” Ortiz commented.

The curriculum for the two-week-long club progresses from the basics and then introduces more advanced moves (like tricks with different lengths of rope) that leaves kids with a new sense of pride in what they learned.

The last meeting of the club is scheduled for this Friday, and Ortiz said that students finish each session with “a tremendous self-confidence.”

“To come from a skill you just really can’t do, that rhythmic bringing the rope over and jumping, to jumping with endurance, to jumping without missing, to jumping with tricks, to jumping into a long rope, to running out of a long rope,” Ortiz said. “You can see their accomplishment in their eyes when they actually get the next step.”

The club is coached by parent volunteers, but also has connections to the longstanding Houghtaling Elementary School Hot Feats program. Katy Hook, recently retired from the Ketchikan School District, coached the program for years and now is helping the Fast Track Fliers.

“She’s so positive with the kids, and she knows all the different sequences and steps for learning,” Ortiz said of Hook.

Both Hook and her daughter, Hilary Robbins, are helping coach the students — including Hook’s granddaughter, a Fast Track student.

Ortiz was enthusiastic that jumping rope is a good educational activity for all students.

“I just think jump rope for any elementary program (is good),” said Ortiz. “You can have that rope anywhere"

She said that in Ketchikan, the activity was a good choice due to its versatility.

“If there’s something fun for families to do in Ketchikan, I would say order a long rope, because it’s a really easy way for kids to learn to jump rope, and you know, get mom and dad out there turning the rope, or a big sister and big brother, and it’s super fun to jump with a long rope, Ortiz said.