From early age, Chatham teen has distinguished himself in emerging sport of jump roping

Posted 4/19/19

PITTSBORO — For his long and eclectic list of interests and talents, teenager Zac Tomlinson credits his tendency, as he puts it, to “get bored easily.”

At 18, he’s already completed high …

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From early age, Chatham teen has distinguished himself in emerging sport of jump roping

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PITTSBORO — For his long and eclectic list of interests and talents, teenager Zac Tomlinson credits his tendency, as he puts it, to “get bored easily.”

At 18, he’s already completed high school (a year early), is three semesters into studies at Durham Tech, is an accomplished photographer and videographer, plays guitar and bass guitar, holds a Black Belt in karate, and can juggle — knives, no less.

He’s played a lot of sports — soccer, basketball, lacrosse — and “he was good at all of them,” said his mother, Ginny.

“And then,” she said, “he got a rope in his hands.”

That changed everything.

Zac isn’t simply a professional competitive jump roper; he’s one of the best, currently holding four U.S. speed records and a string of first place U.S. and World freestyle titles.

Born in Germany, raised in Silk Hope, and now calling Pittsboro, where he lives with his mother, home, Zac took to jumping rope early, and quickly.

Like a lot of kids, he first got his hands on a jump rope around age 8 or so, while living in Germany, and simply “started jumping and jumping,” he said.

He hasn’t stopped.

“I’d ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up,” Ginny said, “and he would always say ‘I want to be a professional jump roper.’ I always told him, ‘That’s not a job.’”

Young Zac, however, was on to something.

Soon after first experiencing the joy of jumping, he joined his first jump rope team. Two years later, he was competing.

“For my age, I did pretty well,” he recalled of his early, formative efforts.

He would soon distinguish himself.

By age 13, only five or so years after first handling a rope, Zac was a world champion, securing his first world championship medal at the World Jump Rope Grand Nationals in Orlando.

In addition to a dozen first place titles at USA Grand Nationals, he’s also earned three first place Pan Am Grand trophies and won the all around competition at the Arnold Sports Festival in 2018, performing before the event’s namesake, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He was also the first-ever recipient of the American Jump Rope Federation Scholarship, the $1,000 prize helping fund his post-high school education.

While jumping rope may be a sport flying under the radar in the bigger picture sports world, it’s a real thing, on track, in fact, to being added to the list of Olympic sporting events.

And Zac is at the top of the sport. Though not household names, there are a few “legendary” jumpers — Nick Woodard and L.J. Lavecchia are two he mentions — but Zac’s name is also one of the most recognizable within the pro jump roping arena.

He’s jumped with three Triangle area teams, the Bouncing Bulldogs, Skipsations and the Cary Superskippers.

He’s also a World Jump Rope Federation Ambassador and it’s in this ambassadorial role that Zac is perhaps most at home. He’s brought his performances to many area schools, and through his own company, JumPro, he has taken the sport of jump roping to wider audiences through social media (you can find video clips of his jumping skills on YouTube), performances and workshops.

Late last year, he spent a couple of months with the Circus Knie in Switzerland, performing a jump routine, and he’s booked to spend this September dazzling audiences in Southeast Asia, where he’ll jump rope with a circus in Malaysia.

He’s making a significant impact on the sport here at home, too.

A while back, Zac and his mom approached the Chatham County Parks & Recreation Department about teaching a beginner’s jumping class.

“They were very receptive,” Ginny said, and after working out the details and securing a location in Pittsboro, Zac’s first class through the county agency got under way in March.

The inaugural class was well-received, said Tracy Burnett, director of the county’s parks and recreation.

With a limited number of slots available (they wanted to keep the class small, with fewer than a dozen beginner students) the first class “filled up quickly,” Burnett said.

“We had kids on a waiting list,” she said.

There’s been great interest in the new program, Burnett said, partly because it’s unique.

“It’s a different type of activity,” she said. “It’s not hitting a ball. It’s not throwing a ball. It’s not catching a ball.”

Ginny calls the activity a “cheap and easy form of exercise,” though she said Zac, at the pace he jumps, burns through a pair of shoes quickly.

“It’s an inexpensive, healthy sport that kids can do,” said Ginny.

A second class will get underway soon.

“I definitely recommend it,” said Zac. “It burns a lot of energy. And it’s a lot of fun.”

To see Zac in action, check out his YouTube page by going here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdP-38ub0Pafb2JUS8vMFVg

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