2007-05-10 / News

Island kids catch derby fever

By Adrienne Downing

Hanna Geib, at right, encourages fellow second-grader Emily Tiexiera in the Melrose school Kentucky Derby. Photo by Adrienne Downing Hanna Geib, at right, encourages fellow second-grader Emily Tiexiera in the Melrose school Kentucky Derby. Photo by Adrienne Downing The rest of the nation had to wait until Saturday for the Kentucky Derby, but the students at Melrose Avenue School were able to have their own derby on Friday thanks to gym teacher Joe Ucci.

Ucci started the derby four years ago as a fun activity for the kids.

"The first year we did it, the weather was cold and rainy but for the last few years it has been very nice and the kids have had a great time," Ucci said.

He sets the course up on the Lawn Avenue field, and organizes the children by grade and gender.

"We have first grade boys run against first grade boys and girls against girls, and we go like that from grade to grade," Ucci said.

Winning is not emphasized as much as sportsmanship and having a good time.

Although there are no official awards, second grader Hanna Geib would have won the sportsmanship award for her kindness to her classmate.

Emily Tiexiera was still making her way around the course when many her classmates had returned to their places in line after the race. Someone in the crowd started a cheer of "Emily, Emily" and Geib ran across the course, took Emily by the hand and raced by her side to the finish line.

Her gesture sparked a similar circumstance in the fourth grade race that followed.

When all the students had finished racing, Ucci offered a challenge to the teachers to participate. The crowd cheered in delight and chanted the names of their favorite teachers as the faculty moved into position at the starting line.

All of the teachers put in a good show, but in the end first grade teacher Kelly Speck managed to hold off Ucci for the win.

"I think it is a great thing for the kids and it really is so cute when the whole school is together," principal Kathy Almanzor said.

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