ROCHESTER — Nicholas Lugo-Himler, a fourth-grader at St. John Neumann School, 31 Empire Blvd., said he’d painted the blue streak in his hair for a reason.
“It symbolizes team spirit,” he said, noting that he was a member of the Blue Boas, one of several teams participating in the First Annual Spring Games at St. John Neumann May 24. Each team was made up of groups of students from all of the school’s grades and wore colored shirts signifying their team memberships.
While he said he was proud of the Blue Boas, Nicholas added that the blue streak in his hair would not become a permanent feature.
“I know that I’m going to take it out tonight,” he said.
Florian Komorowski, better known as “Mr. K,” the school’s physical-education teacher, served as master of ceremonies for the competition, which took place outside the school, which is located on the grounds of St. Ambrose Parish. St. John Neumann was established last fall after St. John the Evangelist School on Humboldt Street closed and was merged with St. Ambrose School at the St. Ambrose building. Renamed St. John Neumann, the diocesan school currently enrolls 208 children.
Mary Warth, a parent who serves on the school advisory committee, said that her family attends St. John the Evangelist Church, and that she was glad she sent her daughter, Katherine, to first grade at the new school.
“She absolutely loves it,” Warth said, adding that she thought it was important for her child to receive a Catholic education.
“I like, obviously, the values and religion taught alongside the academics,” she said.
However, academic work was far from the minds of the excited children during the games. For example, first-grader Pasquale Piccininni said he enjoyed one competition in which pairs of students held the blades of hockey sticks — removed from their shafts — and batted toy racing cars back and forth, pushing them down a lane and back.the game. Pasquale noted that he’d like to be a professional race car driver someday.
“It looks fun, driving,” he said.
Green-shirted Lucky Leprechaun Jessica DeRoller, a sixth-grader, said the team games were “just really fun for the school spirit.” Ellen Walsh, a sixth-grader and a member of the Orange Tigers, said she particularly enjoyed a race in which students had to run to another person holding a tray of bubble solution and blow a bubble.
“It’s kind of challenging because sometimes you blow too hard, and you can’t go until you actually blow a bubble,” she said.
Like Jessica, Ellen said the games united the new school’s student body.
“It gets everybody together, and you get to meet new people from different classes,” she said.
Fellow Orange Tiger Frank Bruno, a fourth-grader, said he enjoyed a game in which students balanced an egg on top of an empty pizza box, and raced back and forth. “I like pizza,” he added.
Another egg-meets-pizza-box fan was Michael Remillard, a Pink Panther in the sixth grade.
“I like running,” he said. “I just run around the block.”
Quinten Bennett, a fifth-grader, noted he enjoyed the bubble race for the same reasons Michael liked the pizza-box run.
“You could just like run real fast, and it’s cool and it’s also exercise,” he said.
In another competition, students held the ends of an open parachute and bounced toy turtles into the air as other students tried to catch the fake flying reptiles. Fourth-grader Patrick Casey, a Purple Gladiator, said he relished the game.
“It was sort of easy,” he said.
On the other hand, Brian Beauchamp, a fifth-grade Orange Tiger, was a serious turtle-catcher. He noted that casual observers wouldn’t understand how difficult it is to snag an airborne turtle.
“You thought they’d come farther out, but they like just went off the parachute,” he said.
Best friends Abby Wolfe and Austin Brown-Gibbons, both first-graders, said they were enjoying the games, but had different favorite activities. Abby favored the hockey stick/racing car game, and Austin preferred the bubble race. Fifth-grader Jacki Lennox, a Red All-Star, also enjoyed the bubble race, noting that she is a veteran of bubble wars.
“I usually open my window in my room and blow my bubbles out,” she said. “I like to watch them fly away.”
One student looked like he might just fly away himself, given the exuberant spirit he exhibited. Sixth-grader Andrew Greco sported a red bandana on his head and a shirt emblazoned with the words “Cereal Killer.” At the end of the games, the entire student body stood in a circle, each receiving a medal for participating in the event, while Andrew ran around exhorting his fellow students to cheer and do “the wave.” He added that students as St. John the Evangelist used to do the same thing at that school’s annual games, and he wanted the younger children at St. John Neumann to have the same experience he had had.
Standing off to the side, watching the awards ceremony was Rosemary Blohm, whose daughter, Jennifer, is in the second grade.
“This activity is a great one because there’s no winners and losers,” she said. “Everybody just has fun, and they all get medals at the end.”
Eva Schenck, grandmother of Nicholas Lugo-Himler, and a parishioner at St. Ambrose, noted that the games symbolized how children from the two former schools have united, something her son has experienced firsthand.
“He has a lot of kids in his class from St. John’s, and they’ve meshed together really well,” she said.