Jefferson students strive to repeat as Track and Field Day champs
Matthew Van Vorous knows his limits and he is more than happy to capitalize on his strengths.
“I’m not very strong, but I am fast,” the Jefferson School sixth-grader said with a smile.
Matthew will be among hundreds of fifth- and sixth-graders participating in the Stevens Point Area Public School District’s 47th annual Eugene G. La Rose Elementary Track and Field Meet at Community Stadium at Goerke Field Tuesday, May 24, and Wednesday, May 25.
The two-day meet covers 15 different events, including the Tug Victory (tug-of-war), standing long jump, running long jump, relay races, hurdles, shot put and dashes.
All 10 district elementary schools have representation, and when all is said and done, the school that shows the highest level of sportsmanship wins the Spirit Jug, a traveling trophy that currently rests at Jefferson School, where it has found a home two out of the last three years.
“When we won (last year), I was just screaming, like everyone else,” said Matthew, who participated in the 100-meter dash and running long jump last year. This year he will repeat those along with the 50-meter dash.
“It was really cool, it meant we achieved something,” said Jefferson sixth-grader Marisha Scott, who participated in the tug, shot put and 50-meter dash last year. “It meant a lot. Hopefully we’ll win again.”
Though it is run like a meet, students say it is the effort that matters, not necessarily the competition.
“I get nervous if I don’t win – I want to get better so I can do it (track) when I’m older – but it doesn’t really matter as long as you try hard,” sixth-grader Alliya Deates said. She will compete in the 15-meter hurdles, running long jump and tug, just like last year.
Students across the district have been working on their track and field events for several weeks as part of their physical education class and to get ready for the upcoming districtwide event. Physical education teachers have been planning, organizing and getting medals and tickets ready since the end of January.
“It’s a total team effort,” said Nancy Schuster, district elementary physical education unit leader. “It takes a ton of planning … it’s all worth it when you get down there and all the kids come down, and you have this overwhelming sense of pride to be part of this huge tradition and to see the kids so excited to be part of something that has been around for so long.”
Along with their own efforts, fifth- and sixth-graders have been involved with the lower grade levels, being leaders and helping the younger ones learn about track and field, timing those students’ events and offering suggestions.
“Good job, but make sure you keep running,” Matthew told a first-grader last week after giving the boy his score.
Even though they time the younger students, many of the fifth- and sixth-graders also are among the loudest cheering for the students to run hard, jump far and tug together.
“I’m so proud of our older students and the way they help our younger ones,” Jefferson physical education teacher Steve Sawall said. “They are so good at encouraging them, motivating them and even correcting their skills and techniques.”
The district schools work with a PBIS curriculum, which promotes and recognizes positive behaviors, like when the older students lead by example, he said, “showing healthy competitiveness, being kind to everyone, having a positive attitude and effort, appreciating their differences, seeking to improve, showing fairness to others, being (team players), and being humble about success.
“I notice that when they help the younger students work on and improve these qualities, they realize their own behavior and become better people themselves, and that is really the ultimate goal,” Sawall said.
Many of the older students don’t even realize it. For them, it’s all part of the game.
“My favorite is the tug, because I can use all of my strength to help my team,” Marisha Scott said.
“There’s always so much teamwork,” said sixth-grader David Cooper, who will compete in the running long jump, tug and 50-meter dash, same as last year. “You get to be outside all day, you get to see friends you might have from other schools, you just get to have a lot of fun.”