Olympians at Cotter Junior High

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Marisa Corcoran

The eighth grade teams gather together to cheer against the seventh graders.

Cotter Junior High has a long standing tradition of the Junior High Olympics. Each year, during Catholic Schools Week, the seventh and eighth graders compete against each other in various different competitions including transporting a hula hoop through a chain of people and everyone racing to get a t-shirt on and off as fast as possible.

The Red Team works to get the hula hoop around each one of them as fast as possible.

As the tradition continues, however, some adaptations must be made from year to year, and the 2020 Junior High Olympics were not spared from such changes.

The two main changes from this year’s olympics include more teams than ever before, and a very quiet audience compared to past years. Normally, Mr. Whaley separates the Junior High students into four teams; two eighth grade teams, and two seventh grade teams.

However, this year, there were a few too many students for so few teams. For the first time, six different teams competed at the Junior High Olympics. This was certainly not an issue though, because it meant that “Cotter is doing a tremendous job of attracting students and meeting their needs,” Whaley said.

The surplus of competitors helped to even out the lack of noise coming from a quite sparse audience. Due to the winterfest coronations happening at the same time this year, no high school students were allowed to attend and cheer on those participating at the olympics.

While they may not get to participate themselves, it is often very fun for both the high school and junior high students to have the older kids watch. As the high school students reminisce about their own experiences with the Junior High Olympics, the younger kids have their experience enhanced by the presence of the previous participants.

Despite the lack of high school students, some teachers were still able to lead and encourage their teams. Instead of actually doing the activities, the teachers coached their teams and gave advice on how best to complete the given tasks.

For Mrs. Corcoran’s first ever Junior High Olympics, helping out as a teacher and leader for the students was an extremely enjoyable experience. As a teacher, she loved seeing her team “come up with creative ways to complete the challenges and work hard to collaborate with other groups” because she really saw how such activities brought students together to cooperate in new ways.

The White Team works together to get their teammate across the gym.

The best part was watching the students come up with creative ways to complete the challenges and work hard to collaborate with other groups to get extra points!”

— Mrs. Corcoran

While the students value the way the olympics force them to work together, many find the most joy in the activities themselves. Cotter seventh grader, Claire Miller, did not expect the games to be a very big deal, but once they started the activities she saw how everyone “really got into it.” Even the dancing and singing aspects of the olympics were a huge hit, not just the physical challenges.

“I liked [them] because they were less competitive and you could just have fun,” Miller said. With the more physical activities, “people would get mad” Miller said, which could lessen the experience for others who were simply having a good time.

The Green Team shows off their dancing skills in a dance competition.

Each activity does count for points though, which helps the teams make their way to victory. Ultimately, the main goals are to have fun and work together, as well as to compete with and against your classmates. Typically, an eighth grade team wins simply because they have previous experience from the year before.

The only time this pattern has been broken was in the 2016 Junior High Olympics when the white seventh grade team (currently juniors) won the title. The 2020 Junior High Olympics marked the fourth year in a row since then that an eighth grade team has won; the Blue Team, led by Mrs. Welle, proved victorious this year.

Even though the eighth graders usually have an advantage from their previous experience, the Blue Team was not a clear winner from the start. The white seventh grade team, with Mrs. Drazkowski leading them, was in a close race with the Blue Team up until the very end. The last competition finally sealed the deal between the two teams, with the White Team taking second place to blue.

The winning Blue Team after successfully completing a challenge.

While the competition is fun, the real reason the Junior High Olympics are a tradition at Cotter schools is that it brings people together. During Catholic Schools Week, the students, faculty, and staff at Cotter all gather to celebrate the blessings of being a catholic school.

“The [Cotter Junior High School] Olympics is just part of that wonderful week,” Whaley said.

Through the tradition of the Junior High Olympics, Cotter Schools has established an exciting and memorable experience for students to look back on throughout their lives. Many recall the experience with a special fondness centered around times of learning and growing with their classmates. Throughout life, it is important to remember the times when one was taught to work hard and persevere through the challenges life throws.