photo by McCallie website
For most of the year, McCallie Middle Schoolers live in relative obscurity, understandably overshadowed by their older, more decorated Upper School counterparts.
This is the order of life. You age, you mature, you wait your turn for the good stuff and privilege that comes with seniority.
But not on Middle School Duck Day. Not with Upper School seniors having graduated, and juniors, sophomores and freshmen focused on upcoming exams and possible varsity spring sports championships.
No, this past Friday was a chance for the young guns of McCallie to steal the spotlight on everything from slip-and-slides to tug-of-wars to leapfrog relay races to Dizzy Bat to a belly-flop contest in the Lake that featured something even the Upper School Duck Day lacked – a belly flop that began as a front flip.
Or as Middle School principal Scotty Jones noted while dodging the water splashing from the slip-and-slides, “This is their day to take center stage. They get to run around and have fun, just boys being boys for a day before exam week.”
It started mid-morning on the Spears Stadium track. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders were divided up into six teams – Blue (the Smurfs), Red (Kool-Aid Men), Orange (Flaming Hot Cheetos), Green (Green Beans), Yellow (Bananas) and Purple (The Grapeful Dead, which should have barely nosed out the Cheetos for the best nickname of the bunch had there been a contest for that) – and launched into various competitions.
Though details of winners and losers in the field events were sketchy, the Dead’s tug-of-war victory was apparently later overturned and handed to the Smurfs on some irregularity.
“They cheated,” said one member of the Green team.
“We did what it took to win,” said faculty member Roc Evans '91 as he struggled to suppress a smile.
In case you’re wondering about Dizzy Bat, the student leans his head on a baseball bat and moves around in a circle for a certain period of time, then tries to walk in a straight line while he’s presumably feeling dizzy.
“I started my team off,” said sixth grader Liam Tabibiazar, who was on the Bananas. “I did pretty well, I guess. You’re on a competitive high, but not too high.”
But it was after lunch when the real fun began, with the slip-and-slides filling up the lawn in front of the Student Activities Center, 3-on-3 basketball inside, as well as some improvised fun with a miniature glass basketball goal and rim by a collection of seventh graders.
“We ask people what it feels like to get dunked on,” said seventh grader Tyler Lawrence. “Then we lift the goal over their head and dunk on them (with a Nerf-style ball).”
Their proudest moment from this exercise: “We dunked on Mr. (Joel) Bradford,” beamed Ryan Carpenter, who was joined in this feat by fellow seventh graders Landon Chapman, Dallas Gardner, Aedan Godbold, Wyatt Henderson, Tyler Lawrence, David Litchford, Carter Noland and Pritchett Norwood.
Finally, all three grades gravitated towards the Lake, to relay races and the final event of the day, the Belly Flop.
After three or four rounds, the last two participants were eighth grader Jon Cross and seventh grader Gabriel Miller.
Cross went first and delivered a perfect forward flip that led into a serviceable belly flop.
“When Jon did that front flip I knew I had to do something special,” said Miller.
He leaped from the diving board, got as horizontal as possible, then landed belly first against the aqua water.
“That hurt so bad,” Miller said. “But I had to do it to win.”
Does he intend to defend his title next year, pain be darned?
“I don’t know,” he replied.
When the day began, 8th Grade English teacher Bill Jamieson had no idea what his students were planning for him at Duck Day’s conclusion. When the belly-flop competition finished, he found out. A number of his students, including Thomas Jackson, donated enough money to buy Jamieson a $180 pair of Air Jordans, size 15.
“They’re blue and they’re perfect,” noted Jackson, a rising 9th grader who was one of 20 students to sign the sneakers. “Now he’s got some new ‘J’s.’”
Said Jamieson, an LSU grad who got to watch the late, great “Pistol Pete” Maravich play for the Bayou Bengals, “This has been a really special class. If Michael Jordan himself had signed these, they wouldn’t be as valuable to me as having these guys sign them.”
The belly-flop competition about to begin, sixth grader Tre Clay made one last run on the slip-and-slide before heading to the Lake.
“The best thing about Duck Day is nobody’s going around mad or disappointed about anything,” he said. “The teachers make everything fun. Everybody’s happy.”
Just McCallie boys being McCallie boys on Duck Day, regardless of their grade level.
photo by McCallie website