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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Everyone’s Up for Jr. Olympics

With a look of determination in his eye, 10-year-old Corey Renik sprinted to a box on a sandy stretch of the playground and hurled himself 12.2 feet to victory.

“That was pretty good, huh?” he said, wiping sand off his crumpled shorts after he jumped the farthest in a long jump event at Harold S. Ambuehl Elementary School on Wednesday.

“Awesome,” replied Derek Cotton, a fellow fifth-grader who marked the long-jump distances on the first day of Junior Olympics at the school.

Junior Olympics have a long history at Ambuehl School, usually held in the spring for students who go to school on a traditional September-June schedule.

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But Wednesday’s Junior Olympics were the first time the event has been presented for the nearly 300 other students at the school who attend year-round. The two-day program concludes today.

Students on the standard school year schedule, called “traditional,” begin their new terms next week. Students on the year-round schedule began in July and are about a month away from a three-week break.

School officials said Wednesday the Olympics program is a good way to teach students the importance of being physically fit. But one fourth-grader said it’s more than that.

“It’s like a competition between us and traditional,” said Laurel Allen, one of 25 fourth-grade girls waiting in line for the softball throw. “To see who can get less time.”

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With a rapid winding of the arm and a good kick, the girls heaved the ball as far into the field as they could, then went to mark their spot.

Petite Christina Rosen, clad in pink from head to toe, shocked her fellow students when she threw the ball 95 feet into the field, farther than all others.

She attributed the feat to routine practice with her older sister, a softball player. Especially deserving credit, she said, is her father, who assists in practice sessions as the pitcher and always pushes Christina to throw forcefully from the infield.

“He always says, ‘Aw, c’mon, you can do better than that,’ ” said Christina, who wants to play on a softball team when she is older.

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Other events during the Junior Olympics included basketball shooting, base running and the soccer dribble.

Second- and third-grade students ran 50-, 100-, 200-, and 400-yard dashes while fourth- through sixth-graders selected three of the six field events during the two-hour program.

Today, students will flip-flop schedules with second- and third-graders competing in the field events and fourth- through sixth-graders running races.

In addition to promoting physical strength, the program also builds pride among the relatively small staff and student body, said Colleen Young, a fourth-grade teacher at the school. “It gives us a sense of unity and (of) working together.”

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