Spectators had already picked their favorite teams to take the win. The teams faced each other, determination etched into every expression. All were silent with anticipation as the referee stood between the players. Lifting three fingers into the air so that everyone could clearly see, he let them drop one at a time.
Three, two, one… go!
Excited cheers, accompanied by heavy groans, saturated the crisp, mid-morning mountain air and the teams couldn’t hold out any longer.
And in this high-stake game of tug o’ war, the Berry Middle School eighth-graders, their heels digging into the soil, slid into the ground, securing the seventh-graders a championship they’d been trying to accomplish for years.
The Berry College Elementary and Middle School students celebrated the school’s time-honored tradition of the Mountain Day grand march and Olympic games on Friday.
While the fifth and sixth-graders competed for their tug o’ war titles, Addie Grace Trejo, a seventh grade student was catching her breath beside Ramsey Cook, an eighth-grader.
“I’ve only been here since the fourth grade but our classes have been rivalries,” Addie Grace said of Ramsey’s class. “They’ve beaten us every year, because we’ve always been so much smaller than them, but this year we finally won. Yay!”
Ramsey admitted she was a little bummed since this was her last year at BCEMS.
“It feels bad, like pure defeat,” she said. “It’s our last year. They finally broke their losing streak.”
Both girls said Mountain Day week was a lot of fun, but their Mountain Day Olympics was what they enjoyed the most, particularly the tug o’ war competition.
“I’m really competitive, so I like jumping around and getting all painted up and getting all crazy,” Addie Grace said.
Lynne Manna, BCEMS admissions director, said the students love celebrating Mountain Day every year.
“We try and model it after the Berry College Mountain Day and so we did our (grand) march and our penny drop just like Martha Berry did with her students,” she said, pointing out that each class wears their own different colored Mountain Day t-shirt. “We started having all of our games and color wars. The teams are class against class. The parents are all out here volunteering; that’s who made it happen. And it’s a lot of school spirit and it’s also crazy hair day.”
She said the students dressed up every day for the festivities. Monday was patriotic day and they wore red, white and blue. Tuesday, the students came to class decked out in their favorite sports team gear. Wednesday was crazy sock day and Thursday, they wore their best Berry colors (navy blue and silver) because the students walked down to the Old Mill, which was operating especially for the kids.
“They operated the Old Mill for us and ground the corn and showed us the waterwheel,” Manna said.
Friday was crazy hair day, which added to the wacky fervor of the Mountain Day Olympics.
“Today we’re celebrating Martha Berry’s birthday!” said sixth-grader Madison Bradshaw. “She was the founder of this school.”
Dayton Harvey said he enjoyed playing tug o’ war and watching his classmates go wild for a day.
“It’s just really fun to see all the kids out and playing,” he said. “And it’s really just a friendly competition.”