St. James students catch Olympic fever

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 21, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / April 21, 2000

ST JAMES – Competition was high as St. James Parish elementary studentsfought their way to the state championships Monday. Winners of the theirown mini-olympics, kids from Vacherie Primary, Vacherie, Fifth Ward, Sixth Ward, Paulina, Gramercy and Lutcher elementary schools competed against each other for a chance to enter the state games at the LSU Field House in Baton Rouge May 20.

The students competed at St. James High School in multiple events, includingthe 50-yard dash, pull ups, shuttle run, long jump, curl ups, sit and reach and the 600-yard run. The day ended with two boys and two girls headed for thechampionships. Winners in the boys events were first place, Cade Fontenot,and second place, Tad Brock, both from Paulina. In the girls events winnerswere, first place, Katie Duhe’, and second place, Joyce Gravois, both from Paulina.

Khymoat Williams of Lutcher and Erika Harry from Vacherie Elementary both took third place and will serve as alternates for the state championships.

Rudy Macklin, executive director of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, was at the event to support the function. Macklinorganized the state championships in 1993, and he said no other state has such an event.

After hearing reports and reading articles citing Louisiana as the most unhealthy state in regards to elementary school fitness, Macklin thought it a chance to study the children and see what shape they are really in.

“I couldn’t find out where everyone had gotten their results from. So wetake the results from the school competitions to get a real indication of the students’ fitness,” said Macklin.

This championship will be the sixth annual event Louisiana has had.

“People really get into this. The kids love it, and with 2,000 to 3,000 peoplein the stands they get hyped up even more,” said Macklin.

The event is dressed out in olympic fashion with an opening and closing parade. Miss Louisiana will be on hand to speak to the children, campaigningfor anti-smoking.

This year 32 parishes, including St. James and St. Charles, will compete inthe events. This is quite an improvement from the initial 17 parishes thatbegan the collaboration.

The parish to beat is East Baton Rouge, said Macklin. In St. James, watch outfor Paulina. They train for the events every year, he added.Chris Hymel and Shane Kliebert, St. James High School football players, werethere to help with the activities.

“This is a good chance for the students to get in shape before high school. Itproduces better athletes for track, basketball and other sports,” said Hymel.

Each of the competing students received a gift bag for their hard work. Thebags included a T-shirt, water bottle, anti-tobacco survival kit, Spiderman anti-smoking comic and different brochures on heart disease and health for Macklin said the kids have a good time and learn keys to stay away from smoking.

“We consider it good preventive medicine,” said Macklin.

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