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Jump-rope team mourns teen killed in plane crash

Posted January 6

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— A Chapel Hill teen who died Monday in a plane crash in Idaho was a co-captain of a national championship rope-jumping team.

MacKenzie Ruston, 17, was one of two people on a vintage airplane when it went down near a reservoir in eastern Idaho. Friends say the Ruston family owned a home in nearby Alpine, Wyo., and flew recreationally there. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating to determine the cause of the crash.

Much like her classmates at East Chapel Hill High School, members of the Bouncing Bulldogs jump-rope team have been been gathering in the past two days to console and support each other.

"She was a very mesmerizing person when she spoke, when she moved, when she jumped," Susan Davis, a parent of a team member, said Wednesday. "Kenzie, at this point in her career as a jump-roper, was like the beating heart of the program."

The Bouncing Bulldogs team uses older members to train the younger ones, and everyone is incredibly close, said Anna Reeb, who was Ruston's jumping partner.

"We were like sisters. She was always there for me if I was down and vice versa," Reeb said.

She said she wasn't surprised Ruston was flying the day she died. Like jump rope, she said, airplanes were a passion for Ruston, who got her pilot's license last summer.

"She loved the idea of adventure and excitement," Reeb said.

Mary Hunter Benton, a former Bouncing Bulldogs member, was in class at medical school when she learned of Ruston's death. She dropped everything and rushed to be with the team.

"We're going to miss her, but a little piece of her will be with us every day," Benton said.

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