Fun is the primary goal at annual athletic competition

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
— There was a chill in Tuesday morning’s air, but the fifth-graders were pumped.

At least, most of them were.

It was their big field day, the culmination of six years in elementary-school gym classes. It was the fifth-grade track meet.

Parents watched as public- and parochial-school kids ran, jumped and threw, competing against their peers citywide. The same scene was scheduled for today as the fourth-graders take over Monterey Stadium.

“We get to see all the other competitors, and we get to try to beat them, but it’s not really about beating,” said Monroe School’s Pricila Clark. “It’s about having fun.”

So kids shouldn’t feel bad about losing, said Pricila, who was most excited at the fact that her father was able to get out of work to watch her.

But not all were feeling happy about it.

“I’m scared,” declared Jenna Jero of Lincoln School.

Jenna said she didn’t win anything at last year’s fourth-grade meet, but that wasn’t why she was unhappy. She just doesn’t like performing in front of people, she said.

Jenna was resigned to her fate, however. She was registered for the long jump, softball throw and 50-yard dash.

“I can’t jump very far, I can’t throw very far, and I’m not good at running,” she said matter-of-factly.

“I really don’t care about winning and losing,” she said. “I just like having fun.”

Jenna’s classmate Dakota Jass took a philosophical approach: “You know you did good, but other people just did better than you.”

And, there’s a bright side, Jenna decided: “I’d rather be here than in math”

Losing was relative. Opportunities to get a ribbon were everywhere. The top six places got ribbons, and students competed in five different classes, depending on their size. And each of those size classes were divided between boys and girls.

Even so, some went home empty handed.

Disappointment registered on some faces as they did their best but saw others race ahead of them.

Teachers had told them the day wasn’t about wins and losses, but that didn’t always ease the sting.

Actually, the track meet is one of the few opportunities for kids to win or lose in elementary phy ed, said Kelly Arps, phy ed teacher at Jefferson School.

“We’re so focused on character and having fun and enjoying physical activity,” Arps said. “The important thing is, you’re having fun and cheering on your classmates.”

And that, indeed, was a huge part of it, as it has been for the past 81 years—a Janesville tradition few cities can match.

And, a tradition that’s likely to continue for many more decades

“We’ve already got third-graders who are all excited,” Arps said. “They say ‘Next year I’m going to do this and this and this!’”

Last updated: 9:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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