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  • Caylie Gnyra

St. Jerome’s Holds Gymnastics Day

St. Jerome’s students participate in Gymnastics Day. Photos Caylie Gnyra

One of the highlights of St. Jerome’s Catholic School’s academic year is its annual Gymnastics Day competition, and 2024 didn’t disappoint.

Each year on St. Jerome’s Day in late September, students in grade four as well as students new to the school are initiated into one of three “houses”: Mackenzie, Fraser, and Cartier. They remain affiliated with these houses for the duration of their time at the school, fostering connections across grades and developing a sense of belonging.

Gymnastics Day is the much-anticipated event that pits the houses against each other in friendly performance-based competitions. This year, it fell on Wednesday, March 27.

After five weeks of lunch-hour practices and an all-morning practice immediately preceding the event, students from grades four through twelve excitedly streamed into the school’s gymnasium clad in the colours of their house, taking their place in the bleachers with their housemates. Students still too young to participate were not excluded, and took their place on the floor of the south side of the gym to watch the spectacle unfold.

Principal Allan Chase opened the program with the Prayer of St. Francis and the school’s song. In his opening remarks, Mr. Chase choked back tears, saying, “This is my last—,” unable to finish his sentence. Regaining his composure amidst cheers from the students, he continued, saying, “At the first Gymnastics Day I was ever at, I remember being completely blown away by your school spirit and your love for God. Never lose that.”

He went on to introduce the judges for the afternoon: beloved former teacher and principal Mrs. Paulette Moir, the always-cheery former teacher and vice-principal Derek Collins, and current superintendent Jim Taplin. Cartier opened the event with their Swedish drill, telling the tale of Mario, Princess Peach, Luigi, and Bowser through a series of jumping jacks, lunges, and other exercises. Fraser then performed their own Swedish drill, pitting Shrek and a swarm of ogres against Rumpelstiltskin and his witches. Mackenzie charmed the audience with a set of exercises inspired by Barbie, featuring a dance-off and tongue-in-cheek “patriarchy positions.”

Continuing their narratives, the three houses faced off with their performances of group balancing pyramids on the gymnastics mats laid out on the floor. Kneeling on hands and knees, up to four older students created a base for smaller students to climb on top, building pyramids that would then collapse—following safe, tried-and-true techniques—to emphasize different parts of the storyline they were weaving. Some pyramids even crawled forward, demonstrating skill in working together. The houses each created their own configurations to bring life to their stories.

Following the pyramids, the event moved into the individual and dual gymnastics events. These featured impressive performances by younger and older students alike, including individual routines set to music as well as individual and paired balances and tumbling. Each move was marked out of a predetermined degree of difficulty.

As the judges tallied their scores, the houses faced off in a series of tug-of-war matches. The gym reached a deafening roar with the victory of each match.

Just prior to announcing the winners, Mr. Chase said, “It’s my favourite day of the year. It’s a lot of fun. The kids always do great. There were a couple of them that got scared, but they persevered.” Mrs. Moir agreed, stating simply, “It was fantastic.” When asked how long the event had been running, she said, “I came in ‘73 and it was well-established by then.” The longevity of this event is a testimony to the school spirit alive and well at St. Jerome’s.

Just prior to bus pick-up, Mr. Chase announced the placings: Cartier came in third, Fraser second, and Mackenzie took first place. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in making such a memorable day.

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