Schools April 24, 2015

LASD Junior Olympics scheduled Saturday

Los Altos School District fourth- through sixth-graders will showcase their athletic abilities at the district’s 55th annual Junior Olympics, scheduled Saturday at Mountain View High School.

The interschool track and field meet spotlights the district’s PE program. The event typically draws a crowd of more than 3,500 students, families, friends and neighbors cheering on the young athletes.

The annual Olympic games feature fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from the district’s seven elementary schools competing in an array of events. More than 1,600 students from Almond, Covington, Gardner Bullis, Loyola, Oak Avenue, Santa Rita and Springer schools are slated to participate.

Events include the 400-meter relay, the 75-yard dash, the 60-yard hurdles, the standing long jump, chin-ups, jump rope, the softball throw and the basketball free throw. Athletes may enter up to three events, some of which require tryouts.

Early in the day, students gather on the track for an opening ceremony that features a parade of mascots, athletes and district officials. It’s a must-see portion of the day, according to Superintendent Jeff Baier.

“My favorite part of the event each year is watching the students enter the stadium, faces beaming with pride as they represent their schools,” he said. “It’s quite an amazing sight.”

Board of Trustees President Steve Taglio agreed.

“There is something about the opening ceremony that gets me every time,” he said. “It is the only opportunity we have to get all the schools together in one place, celebrating the same thing – the potential of what is to come. The kids and their families’ excitement about the day is so real, it would be hard not to get caught up in it.”

District PE instructors prepare students for the Junior Olympics in the weeks leading up to the meet. Students try all the different events and then select the ones in which they want to compete.

“(The students) do not have to be the fastest or strongest, and each PE teacher encourages a ‘Personal Best,’” said Pearl Garvin, PE instructor at Santa Rita. “The joy and sheer determination that I witness in each child’s face during the weeks of training is absolutely wonderful.”

The Junior Olympics are designed to emphasize good sportsmanship, stress the importance of healthy competition and encourage participants to do their best.

Taglio said he enjoys the goodwill and sportsmanship the games promote.

“During the long-distance run there, I’ve watched kids who have finished circle back to cheer on those who are still trying to finish – kids slow down on the track so that no one person is the last to finish,” he said. “It’s those moments that stay with you as well.”

No overall score is tallied per school, but scores are kept for each event by division and student. The top six finishers in each event/division receive awards. The Junior Olympics Committee has a list of student records dating back to as early as 1979. In 2014, student-athletes set 12 new records.

The committee that plans the Junior Olympics and helps run the events includes volunteer representatives from each school and a district PE specialist. The district provides personnel to help with deliveries, equipment and maintenance needs. The Los Altos Educational Foundation and school PTAs fund the event.

The first track event – the 1,320-yard run – is scheduled 8 a.m. on the track at Mountain View High, 3535 Truman Ave. The opening ceremony will follow at approximately 9 a.m.

For more information, visit lasdjo.com.