Catching Olympic fever

BURBANK ? Meghan Richmond would have been in her social studies class learning about Greece.

Instead, she had a date to represent France.

Richmond and nearly 330 students from St. Robert Bellarmine Elementary School competed in the 10th annual St. Robert Bellarmine Olympics on Thursday at the school. The program is designed to teach and promote teamwork, fairness, competitiveness and responsibility.

Richmond, a sixth-grader, competed in several events. She first participated in a free-throw shooting contest before partaking in a water relay and capture-the-flag competition.

The Burbank resident made three consecutive free throws for her group, which featured children from kindergarten through eighth grade. That wasn't a bad performance for somebody who doesn't play basketball daily.

"I just play basketball during lunch or recess," said Richmond, who competed in her second Olympics. "I practiced a little bit, but maybe I would have done better if I had practiced more.

"It's a good way for the kids to be active. I can spend more time with my friends and try to help my team do well."

Down the school's driveway, Matthew Shaugabay tried his luck in a hockey shooting contest.

Shaugabay, who is in kindergarten, scored three goals while representing Mexico.

"It's kind of fun," said Shaugabay, who resides in Burbank. "It's exciting."

The countries that finished first, second and third received medals. Ribbons were awarded for the countries that earned the most points.

Kathy Segura, the event's coordinator, said the program is one of the more popular events taking place at the end of the school year.

"The kids look forward to it because they can compete in different events," said Segura, who was flanked by about 30 volunteers. "They are very enthusiastic and their enthusiasm builds because they know it's coming.

"It's a culmination for the ones who are set to graduate and for the little ones who are just coming in. There's also no schoolwork or homework that day."

The event also included target practice, in addition to an opening and awards ceremony. Paintings, which had been done by past and present students, of the respective countries were placed on the fences around the school.

Segura said Jennifer Marshall, a former first-grade teacher who moved to Arizona, started the program in 1996.

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