Senior Aleks Todorov leans forward, stuffing in a second banana, while the crowd cheers him on.
They were, quite literally, going bananas.
With two peels as slippery yellow skis, Springfield students glided across the high school gymnasium floor as their classmates whooped and hollered, cheered and whistled.
Nothing slipshod about these Spirit Week athletes, from the ski teams to the wheelbarrow racers to the pillow-case hoppers.
Hundreds of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors came to school on the day of the Spirit Week finale dressed in outfits befitting the spirited occasion (tie-dyed socks, blue bandanas, and streaks of black along cheekbones were all the rage).
Sure, other area schools invite students to take part in Spirit Week activities, such as a Backwards Day when clothing is worn in reverse. Tame stuff compared with the lively competitions conducted during Springfield's zany spring zing.
"We do all this for our school spirit," said Brooke Ford, 14, who searched for the right words to explain the excitement bouncing around in the gymnasium. "It is fun to be spirity, cause it gets us all together to have fun."
Yep. It most certainly did that. Noisy, packed-with-energy, good clean fun.
Nobody was slipping away from the frenetic scene as games got under way with the Banana Pull, a timed event during which contestants gobbled bananas, plopped peels onto the floor, and then were tugged by ropes, pulled by teammates, down the length of a wide, long sheet of plastic. Seniors vs. juniors, sophomores vs. freshmen, with the best time winning.
"C'mon! C'mon!" encouraged classmates as competitors frantically chomped the fruit.
Judges made sure all of the bananas had been consumed before contestants peeled out on their skis.
When Aleks Todorov, a senior, slipped off his peels inches from the finish line, a chorus of "Oh, no!" erupted. Following the rules, he had to race to get back on the skis. Then, with both feet planted on the peels, he was pulled along to finish the race, to thundering applause from classmates.
Seniors Nick Bombalicki, left, and Shannon Kirkwood, right, pull teammate Alekx Todorov during the spirit games.
Other gotta-win games featured oodles of team work, with hands and arms interlocking to reach a common goal, such as during the Hula Hoop Circle when students moved two Hula Hoops in opposite direction around the circle and ducked in and out of the plastic hoops.
Throughout Spirit Week, classes earned points for participation, including for the number of students who dressed up, helped decorate the school cafeteria, and created posters that decorated the gymnasium last Thursday, just ahead of a holiday break, explained Marty Perlaky, student government advisor.
Although it was a full-out fun fest Thursday afternoon, students were respectful and attentive in their classes earlier in the day, noted Jeremy Nixon, science teacher, who said students in his advanced placement biology class had taken a quiz, complete with an essay, shortly before the games began.
Before dashing off to compete in relay races, Aaron Sied- ler, a junior, said Spirit Week Games "are just a good time hanging out with friends and competing with classmates in a friendly way."
A few moments later, during the wheelbarrow race, junior Courtney Myers skidded across the finish line, her hurry-up technique looking a lot like a baseball player grabbing for home plate.
About 130 eighth graders who had earned an invitation to attend through good grades and good behavior watched with enthusiasm, knowing that next year at this time, it would be their turn to take part in the Spirit Week Games.
Although14-year-old Reid Sanders liked watching the rally races and other games, he's not yet certain whether he will be among the competitors next year. "Right now, I wouldn't say that I would be out there on the gym floor. It would depend if I have a change in character. I am not good in front of crowds."
Grant Rossbach, 16, wasn't being shy about his enthusiasm for the games, saying such activities "keep our spirits up." He predicted his freshman class was going to be wildly successful as the games concluded. "We are going to win it all."
Um, not quite. This year the junior class earned the highest number of spirit points, followed by the seniors, then the freshman, and then the sophomores.