The Meramec Valley Middle School students struck gold for the school’s third annual Olympics Field Day games when Olympics softball Coach Linda Wells opened the event at an assembly.
“Life is a team sport,” Wells told the students. “No matter what you do in life, you will be part of a team.”
It’s not the number of medals you win in life that counts, but the journey you take in vying for those medals, she said.
Wells told the students about her first exposure to the Olympics. When she was about their age, she went into a store on St. Louis Street in Pacific and met Cathleen Maguire, who had competed in the Olympics in the 1928 Amsterdam as a high jumper.
“To actually see someone who had been in the Olympics always stuck with me,” she said. “I went to that same school she went to and played sports in that same gym.”
Wells said she met other people in her life who impressed her, that she looked up to and wanted to be like, but that early encounter made the Olympics real in the days before constant television coverage brought the Olympic games to everyone.
She asked for a show of hands of the students who play sports.
“Many of you won’t play sports at the Olympics level, but you can consider yourself an Olympian at anything you do,” she said. “All your life you will be part of a team. Whether it is your class, your family, church, club or organization you are part of a team.”
Wells relayed her experience of coaching the Greek and Netherlands teams in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games. She urged the young athletes to develop a passion for what they do and look at life as they were going to be an Olympian.
“At the end of the day, what counts?” she said. “It is the process, the journey.
“How will you be a medalist? You may earn a medal for participating in a conference, being president of your organization or writing a literary essay.
“No matter what you do in life, you can think of yourself as a gold medalist by representing your team,” she said.
When Wells comes home to Pacific she still sees her former “teammates,” like middle school teacher Jerry Grimm, who was her classmate in Pacific.
“When I come back I still have my team in Pacific,” she said. “Always have your teammates at heart.”
By the time the 520 students poured into the center of the middle school track at 10:30 a.m. for their field day activities they were ready for competition that would keep them hopping until 2 p.m.
Around the south end of the track, groups of students, organized by grade or homeroom, assembled behind the flag of the nation they represented.
Cindy Knickmeyer’s seventh-grade homeroom donned T-shirts with the rising sun emblazoned on the front signifying that they represented the nation of Japan.
Middle School teacher Gretchen Schafer and Coach Tom O’Neill coordinated the field day competitions.
Coach O’Neill manned the public address system set up in the center of the track field, calling out the next game and the countries that would compete against each other.
For the next three hours, sixth- and seventh-graders were divided into countries and competed in a series of events. They ran a mile and sprinted for a 100-meter dash, pulled their hearts out in a series of tug-of-war bouts, threw softballs, completed a water-splashing survival channel game, tossed eggs and jumped rope.
In the co-ed one-mile race, a girl captured the bronze medal. Will Green finished the mile first in 5:57 minutes followed by Jay Anding who came in at 6:03 minutes to win silver. Johanna Schultz was third with a time of 6:30 minutes.
Will and Johanna both represented Kenya in the day’s events while Jay represented South Africa.
The three runners admitted that winning was fun.