Irecently attended a special awards ceremony at Vaughn Elementary School that won’t be repeated anywhere ever again.
The occasion: the Washington State President’s Council on Physical Fitness championship awards, for which Vaughn was awarded its seventh consecutive state championship.
Never been done before, never will again.
The school’s gym was packed with students, staff members, parents and friends for the auspicious event. The person most responsible for achieving the record, physical education teacher and coach Marc Ross, came out of his 2012 retirement to officiate at the ceremony.
The kids, who adore him, were thrilled.
Earlier, the following email from Ross got my attention: “Well my friend ... the kids of Vaughn have once again proven that they are some of the most hard working, persistent, goal achieving students anyone can find in the state of Washington.”
Vaughn Principal Susan O’Leary contacted Ross to tell him about the seventh-straight title. O’Leary said it was great to have Ross back at the school to lead the assembly.
“The Presidential Fitness Award Program has been his project for quite some time, so it was fitting that he was with us to present the awards,” O’Leary said. “Seven years in a row as state champions is quite an accomplishment. I’m incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication of our students and Mr. Ross towards achieving this goal.”
Second-grader Mackenzie Miller said it was exciting.
“I was nervous up there getting my award because everyone is staring at you,” she said. “It was really fun to walk up and get the award because we worked hard to earn it. It was neat to have Mr. Ross come back and talk about our achievement.”
Chayse Ferencik, a fourth-grader, received his fourth award.
“It felt awesome!” Ferencik said.
Fifth-grader Isaiah Fahey said: “We just kept trying, and nobody ever gave up. It felt good!”
Classmate JoAnna Roberts was “proud about getting the Presidential Award four years in a row because I had to work really hard for it.”
To fifth-grader Kara McKinney, “It was a great accomplishment that our school won seven times. We never gave up!”
The test is in five physical fitness categories for students in first through fifth grades. They do situps, pushups, flexibility, an endurance run and a shuttle run, and they give each student a chance to retake any test to achieve written and personal goals, Ross said.
“You see the joy, the exhilaration of doing something that they never thought they could physically do, becoming aware that they can achieve goals that they set for themselves,” he said. “For some kids, this may be the best they ever do.
“It was heartbreaking at times,” he added. “Students who have worked years towards earning their Presidential Award, coming so close, but not being able to achieve their time in the mile, to cut off a tenth or two tenths of a second in the shuttle or to stretch their arms out beyond their toes that extra millimeter, to have to tell them this was their last chance, that they did not achieve what they have worked for and wanted, tears at your heart.
“You tell those students that it may feel like a failure, but it truly was one of the more pure successes they can hope to achieve, because they found out what was important to them, and they tried their absolute best.”
In October 2012, the President’s Challenge, formed when President John F. Kennedy was in office, announced this will be its last year.
“Next year,” Ross said, “they are offering a different type of test with different standards and awards. Since that first state championship, Vaughn students realized that they can reach higher by working harder and believing they can.
“Reflecting on the 11 years of this fitness test as a standard to record and evaluate Vaughn students, to me, they are some of the hardest working kids around, proud, honored and privileged.”
And they set a record never ever to be challenged.
For more information, visit www.presidentschallenge.org.Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at email@example.com.