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Excitement builds as Sumter welcomes top Double-Dutch teams for 50th championship

Over 50 teams are competing in the World Invitational Double Dutch Championship.

SUMTER, S.C. — Hundreds of people from across the United States are traveling to Sumter this weekend for the 50th World Invitational Double-Dutch Championship

Teams of all ages have qualified from their state championships, and now they’re going up against the best.

"It’s just really cool coming out and seeing so many teams from so many different places," Brelaysha Nicole Benson said.

Benson coaches the Double-Dutch Rope Twisters. The team traveled from Cincinnati to compete in the championship, which is being held in Sumter this year.

"All the teams here had to qualify in their states," Tournament Director Jamal Turner said. "So you have teams from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina."

Fifty-six teams are participating this year, which marks the 50th anniversary. 

"First one in 1975 was at Lincoln Center," Turner said. "It was there for a couple of years and then it bounced around to different states and then when we came here it was kind of like home."

Jumpers like Kamela Steele, who are calling the Midlands home for the next few days, are showing off their skills.

"Personally when you get out there it’s very stressful, but once you get in the rope, you start turning, and you get there and it’s like you know how to do this," Steele said.

Gwen Maristany, whose family is from Sumter, helped found the American Double-Dutch League. She says she's excited to see the familiar city host this tournament.

"We used our background to put together some ideas and some boundaries that we wanted to use in a new sport really that had not been organized passed just jumping in the street," Maristany said. "We jumped as children but we wanted to get something that was a little bit more structured. And using our background in different sports — in track and field, dance, gymnastics — so we decided what can we do? Double Dutch seemed to encompass all of these in some kind of way, shape or form."

Maristany worked alongside fellow physical education teacher Cheryl Holt and other board members to draft a rulebook and form the sport.

"When we look at the 50 years, we look at who’s here and remember them as children when they were jumping and now they have their own team, their own coaches, so it’s really evolved," Holt said. 

As coaches like Lacie Doolittle from Wagener, SC with Epic Girls Squad compete while forming long-lasting friendships.

"We are a team. We are a unit. We operate as one," Doolittle said. "We win as a team. We lose as a team. We laugh as a team, we cry as a team. When one fails, we all fail. You are only as strong as your weakest teammate."

The tournament goes through Saturday at the Sumter County Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s free for anyone to watch the jumpers in action.

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