By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Was “the thrill of victory” evident at Wednesday’s “Wacky Olympics” in Barbourville?
Yep. That it was.
And what about “the agony of defeat” during the afternoon’s competition at the Stivers Aquatic Center?
Probably not — unless you count getting a shot of water in your nose a temporary setback.
What did matter was 35 school-age children came down to have fun, do some crazy stuff in and out of the water, and made some creative ways to enjoy a day off from school.
The fact that all the major schools in the Tri County region were on spring break this week didn’t hurt, either.
With that in mind, the aquatic center’s manager, Dee Dole, and some volunteers took advantage of the break and thought the young’uns could use one, too.
“We were looking for something fun for spring break for the kids. I was at UK at a swim meet and I saw a bulletin board, showing the ‘Wacky Olympics Results.’ That’s how I got the idea. It’s a bunch of games and activities that maybe the kids haven’t tried. Some of involves coordination like ‘Rescuing the Ball.’ They toss a ball into the pool, and they use a life saver or ‘rescue ring’ to retrieve the ball. It’s coordination, but it’s also fun for the kids,” she said as one school girl was making a try at the game.
Sure enough, 10-year-old Kaylee Smith of Barbourville was at rope’s end.
When the ball was thrown into the pool, Kaylee picked up the rescue ring like a pro, threw it into the pool directly around the ball, and with her hands on the ropes, she expertly brought in the day’s catch to the concrete shore.
“It was fun. It was tricky, and I’d do it again,” Kaylee said, smiling after she was finished.
“We did that last night, and we had lifeguards doing this for an hour. We had a ball,” Dole noted at poolside.
Across the big pool, another event was taking place. It involved six large empty plastic containers and some soppin’ wet sponges. Get the sponges in the containers and get the most points and you win the “Water Sponge Throw.”
Some of the throws didn’t make it into the containers, and in the case of nine-year-old Stephen Smith of Barbourville, some did. Several of the contestants in the competition watched Stephen nail one of the wet sponge throws, as did Christine Meece of Corbin, who volunteered to help with the games.
“The ‘Wacky Olympics’ is something to do for the kids who don’t travel during spring break. It gets them out of the house and they have creative ways to have fun,” she said.
A total of 17 events were held. Along with the Water Sponge Throw and Rescuing the Ball, some of them included the “Tarzan Swing” into the pool, “Pizza Delivery” (which was NOT done in the pool), the “Sack Race,” “Basketball Free Throw,” “Soccerball Weave,” “Happy Hurdles,” the “Javelin Throw,” and the mack daddy of them all, diving off the board into the pool — a.k.a. “The Cannonball.”
Seven-year-old Kaitlyn Sara Smith of Pineville thought she’d take a shot at the Javelin Throw. She took the foam-filled spear with her right hand, gave it a hearty heave, and got applause and laughs from a couple of folks watching nearby.
As she waited for the judges’ decision, Kaitlyn stated, “I don’t know how far I threw it. One foot? I’ve had a good time so far, but I didn’t do that good on the diving board. I was scared because I’m too little, and the water didn’t taste good, either. But I’ve have a good time.”
For those who make it with the highest scores, the trophies await them.
On a ledge at the large desk area where the aquatic center’s staff can watch and keep an eye on the pool, a dozen gold trophies are lined up, equal in shape and size.
Dole called them “Cannonball” trophies. And they, like the games, were also creative.
She explained how they were made.
“You take a square wood base, a soda can, a styrofoam ball, a chopstick, some gold spray paint, some glue and a piece of paper to make it. We drilled a hole in the wood, took a chopstick in there, glued it all, then drilled a hole in the soda can, took the chopstick and stuck it through the styrofoam ball, then up the hole in the soda can, glued that, spray painted it all gold, let that dry while you made a label with the piece of paper and stuck that on the bottom of the trophy where the wood is. See — ‘Can-In-Ball.’ You learn that you can be both creative and crazy,” said Dole as she proudly showed off one of the trophies.
The walls of the aquatic center were lined with banners, proudly proclaiming some of the schools and organizations who use the center for practice and as their home in aquatic events. According to Dole, they include Union College and four high schools — Barbourville, Knox Central, North Laurel and South Laurel. Come this fall, Corbin High will join the group who call the center home.
Whether they had visions of grandeur, or just having a fun time, the 35 Wacky Olympians were in good hands.
Meanwhile, 13-year-old Kyra Meece of Corbin was awaiting her chance to be in the Cannonball competition, the final event for the olympics.
Her game face was on.
“I’ve done every activity except for the Cannonball. I have been on a diving board before, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Of today’s events, I’ve enjoyed the Javelin Throw the most so far. It’s just sort of fun, but I’m really looking forward to going on the diving board,” she said.
With a lifeguard watching nearby on a platform, Kyra waited for her turn, and then with the poise of a expert diver got to the end of the board, bounced up and down a couple of times and sprang into action with her big jump.
After a bombastic splash, she was 13 feet under the water for a few seconds before safely coming up and swimming to the side.
Mission accomplished. Piece of cake.
From the looks of it, Kyra loved every moment of it. And so did her mother, Christine Meece.
Looking at her daughter Kyra, Christine said, “This is why they’re having the Wacky Olympics. Dee and her staff and volunteers are always thinking of ways to have events to get kids in and let them have fun and be active. It’s something different, and it’s making use of the aquatic center. Most of all, the kids enjoy it.”
With 35 olympians and only a dozen Cannonball trophies, Dee Dole had to improvise, so she came up with a plan. They got the names of all 35 youngsters, put them in a box, shook it up and drew out the first 12 names.
They got the trophies.
After the ceremony, all the olympians had cupcakes, snacks and some water to drink.
The event was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., but since it ended at 2:30 p.m., all of them had the rest of the time to enjoy the aquatic center. They did, with being in the water the top choice.
Dole pointed out the creativity and the competition made for an award-winning day, no matter how you score it.
“That was the goal. Everybody have fun. I hope they did,” she said.