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Field day!

A touching ceremony heralds a day of soaking up fun - and soaking a teacher - at Wesley Chapel Elementary.

By MICHELE MILLER
Published May 12, 2004

WESLEY CHAPEL - For elementary school kids, field day is a sure sign that the school year is winding down and summer is well on its way.

Announcements for the annual event traditionally go home in backpacks, as do final notices to return those library books and reminders not to forget that lunch money because IOUs will no longer be accepted in the cafeteria.

At Wesley Chapel Elementary School, this year's field day started out with a little extra fanfare.

Opening ceremonies included a parade in the bus loop with 1,200 students, some carrying the flags of various countries they were representing. School champion runners John Gant and Tanner Brown, fifth-graders, were chosen to pass the torch on to female champion runner Emily Serras, who was chosen to "light" the "Olympic flame."

Sort of. The flame consisted of a colorful piece of paper created by physical education teacher Chris Gorham, who used a fan to spark an illusion as the torch was "lit."

"It was really something, really touching," said second-grade teacher Deb Reidy. "I actually saw some parents wiping their eyes."

"We went with the Olympic theme because this was an Olympic year," said Gorham, who coordinated the games along with P.E. teachers Taryn DePamphilis and Ted Bartle.

The three, who had been planning the event since January, arrived on campus at 5:30 a.m. to cordon off event areas with neon orange traffic cones and bright yellow caution tape.

"This is wonderful," said volunteer Winnie Liona, who enjoyed watching her children, George, 8, and Alexis, 6, do their personal best. "It gives the teachers a break - especially during Teacher Appreciation Week. And it gets the kids out of class."

Laurie Taylor, mom of second-grader Ethan Taylor, said she was only too happy to volunteer for the day.

"It's the end of the year. They want fun stuff to do, and it's fun to do stuff with them," she said.

Some of the competitive events were typical. There were kids playing basketball, running hurdles and throwing shot put and a make-shift javelin designed out of blue foam water noodles for safety.

First-grader Micah Davis seemed happy about winning the 50-yard dash - twice - and Haley Bee, 9, George Liona, 8, Leonard Martinez and Sean Cunius, both 7, all landed in a laughing heap and didn't seem to mind at all when they lost the tug-of-war event.

For Grace Olsen, the big draw of the day was the chance to soak teachers in the dunk tank. She sprinted ahead of the others and was first in a long line of students that snaked across the basketball court.

Grace missed in her two tries, and music teacher Dan Bolt continued his taunt.

"Come on, you can do better than that," he called out. "You guys are leaving me high and dry here."

Not for long.

Second-grader Esteban Noriega, who was fourth in line, hurled a ball that landed Bolt in the tank with a big splash.

Esteban was remorseless as he darted off to compete in another event. "This is the best," he said, "because we get to dunk our teachers."

[Last modified May 12, 2004, 01:56:30]


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