On a concrete lot off Henry Avenue, seniors at W.B. Saul Agricultural High School tossed eggs, rolled hay bales and pulled tractors.
Those were just three of the 10 events part of Thursday’s first-ever agriculture Olympics, a two-hour effort organized by students and teachers to boost school spirit in the face of the Philadelphia School District’s financial crisis.
“With the senior class, they felt like their sponsor wasn’t going to get paid any money for it, but she’s doing it anyway because she loves them, there’s no [guidance] counselor. I think they felt like they were getting a raw deal their last year of high school,” said Principal Tamera Conaway.
You couldn’t tell on Thursday. From a brick wall lined with bleachers, more than 100 students from six teams, each tied to a classroom subject, tirelessly cheered on their teammates and jeered their competitors.
Dominique Morgan was confident the red team, representing a veterinarian technology class, would win “Hay Day”. Her team donned red bananas and eye black to show others just how much they meant business.
“We want to come big — let them know that we’re a threat,” said Morgan.
Mohammad Abuawadeh and his environmental science classmates were just as confident about their chances. “We’re taking the win home today, he said.
Competition aside, Abuawadeh noted that “Hay Day” helps showcase what sets Saul apart from the rest of the city’s public schools.
“Some schools, they don’t really know what we’re about. They think, ‘well you’re the farm school,’ but they don’t know that we have so much more to offer,” said Abuawadeh as he watched the apple toss unfold.
The Olympics also included a pie eating contest, sac and wheel barrow races, and a pig chase — minus the pigs. Students also raced against one another to see who could get on a full hazmat suit the fastest.
Some of the loudest cheering came during the hay bale roll, during which three members of each team flipped squares of hay end-over-end across the concrete.
Brandon Richardson’s bale broke apart on the lap back to the finish line.
“It got caught or something and the string came undone and it just flew everywhere. It was crazy. It was a mess,” said Richardson.
And fun. Students couldn’t stop smiliing.
In the end, the blue team, an equine science class, captured the big win. The victory earned the group bragging rights and a pizza party.