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To Brighter Bounces and beyond

Plenty of people want to break a world record; and a handful actually manage it. But few of those record holders are 20 years old and still in college. 

Casie Merza’s dedication to pogo jumping may soon land her in the Guinness Book of World Records. At the same time, it will benefit the research efforts at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.

The current record for consecutive jumps on a pogo stick, held by James Roumeliotis, is 70,271, according to the Guinness World Records website. Merza plans to break that record Friday in Jacksonville, when she attends one of this year’s two Pogopalooza events. 

Once she decided to break the record, Merza sought out a collaboration with St. Joseph’s in order to raise money for them.

“I wanted to do it for the kids, because I feel like they’re the best group. … They can’t really change their situation,” she said. “I feel like they would definitely get more out of it.”

She was met with cooperation from the hospital, and her fundraiser was in the works soon thereafter.

“(The hospital) set me up with the online donations website and helped me spread the word so I could get people aware of what’s going on,” she said. “They’ve just been really supportive, helping me wherever they can.”

Her website, Casie.info, includes information on her goal, details of the event and material for those interested in pogo jumping. Merza’s fundraiser is called To Brighter Bounces and she will be pogo jumping at the first of this year’s two Pogopalooza events, which are sponsored by Xpogo LLC, the company responsible for founding the official pogo jumping sport.

“For the event that’s coming up in June … I’m going to be pogo-ing by myself to see if I can break the current record,” Merza said. “Then the idea is that I’ll break it and then in July … I’ll be pogo-ing against the current record holder.”

This year’s second Pogopalooza will take place July 2 in Philadelphia, and she plans to attend and face off against the current record holder, as well as a pogo jumper from the UK who holds the current record from longest distance traveled on a pogo stick.

Merza said her family had always been supportive of her pogo jumping. 

“(They support me in) all the weird stuff,” she said. “If it sounds abnormal, they’re like, ‘You know what, let’s do it — sounds good.’”

The young pogo-er’s father, Larry Merza, agreed he is supportive. 

“I back her with it. I guess it’s like a college thing to do, to try to break a world record,” he said. “I think it’s something to go for. She’s always liked extreme pogo-ing and the newer, more extreme pogo stick stuff. So when she saw that there was (Xpogo), this organization that was trying to break all of these world records and saw that the most consecutive pogo was set last year and what it was, she really thought she could beat it.”

One problem Merza noticed was with accurately counting the jumps. Her father said the bounces are usually tallied with a pedometer, but many pogo-ers struggle to stay within the parameters determined by the event.

To remedy this problem, the pair decided to create their own special contraption. Using a raspberry pie and an arduino— two pieces of simple circuitry — they built a small device that detects the vibrations that Merza’s pogo stick will cause each time it bounces. 

The apparatus, her father said, is simple yet sophisticated. It has a number of features — including a bounce number display, an online component and a speed indicator that will indicate how long it will take her to reach the record.

Merza will look to break the record Friday at Hemming Park in Jacksonville, where Pogopalooza is to take place. She is confident she can break the record after a life of pogo jumping for fun.

“Just growing up on a pogo stick, I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can beat the record,’” she said.