Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Excitement of Homecoming Week

There really is nothing like Homecoming Week at Gaston Day. Each day has a theme. Monday is pajama day. Students, large and small, and even the less inhibited teachers are dressed in flannels and bathrobes. Tuesday is denim day. Wednesday: tacky day--and believe me when I tell you that the outfits really are outrageous and weird! Thursday: fictional character day. Friday: blue and white day.

Striking the balance between a week of gigantic school spirit and academics is tricky. Students try to convince teachers that Homecoming Week should be less demanding. Teachers are more or less sympathetic, but also recognize the need to maintain academic focus. Parents and students swing from enthusiasm to exhaustion. Should there really be this many important assignments and tests on Homecoming Week, they ask?

Meanwhile, the excitement and anticipation around the Homecoming Court and the crowning of the Queen is steadily and inexorably building. Who do you think is going to win? Who do you want to win? Is it a popularity contest, a beauty contest, or both? Who will have the prettiest dress? Who are the escorts? How are the mothers doing?

On Thursday night, there is a Hall of Fame Dinner at which new members are inducted into the Gaston Day School Sports Hall of Fame. For me, the evening is nostalgic and emotional as so many of the Hall of Famers are my schoolmates, coaches, or former students.This year's inductees include Lud (1973) and Sandra Garrison Hodges (1975); Coach and Athletic Director Ronnie Digh (1968-1976); Andy Warlick (1975); and T.J. Taylor (2005). Doug Meyer-Cuno, GDS graduate and current Board Trustee, is responsible for conceiving the idea of the Hall of Fame, and he has chaired the Hall of Fame Selection Committee for the last two years. In addition to the dinner, new Hall of Famers will be introduced on Homecoming Night and their Hall of Fame Plaques unveiled.

And then, it is Friday! By this time the excitement (madness?) has built to a fever pitch. There is a whole-school pep rally Friday afternoon. This includes the annual faculty-student basketball game, which pits students not on the varsity basketball team against a hodgepodge of faculty members. Victory for the faculty is a game without injury.

And then, it is show time! Homecoming night features a varsity double-header, the introduction of the Hall of Famers, and...drum roll, please... the introduction of the Homecoming Court and the announcement of the Homecoming Queen, voted on by the upper school student body.The stands are usually packed, our class representatives and their escorts look fabulous, and it is a wonderfully uplifting and happy evening! How could anything be more full of youthful promise, pageantry, and celebration? If Homecoming doesn't make you feel good about life, I am not sure what will.

So I invite everyone to come to Homecoming on Friday and have the time of your life!! The excitement, anticipation and fun really is steadily building. It won't be long now!

A Great Night to be a Spartan!

Athletic Director Casey Field has established a new customary greeting for Gaston Day students. In response to his question, "What kind of day is it today?" Students have been coached to respond "It is a great day to be a Spartan!" Wednesday night, December 1st,  in the James Henry Center Activity Center Gymnasium proved the new slogan is true. There were double-header boys and girls basketball games against Lincoln Charter School. It was the first time I have seen both squads in action, and neither disappointed. GDS students decided that the theme for the evening was "nerd" night, and they came dressed appropriately. I split my time between my post standing in Hal's Corner during the girls game and sitting on the top row of the bleachers where I could take it all in during the boys. The gym looked great. Coaches Field and Lutkus have gotten Andrea DeFrancisco to decorate the place with some sharp-looking graphics.

The girls game was a thriller. New Coach Harry Adams has assembled a really exciting team. They are disciplined, but fast paced on offense. On defense they press after ever opponent score, and they are relentlessly scrappy. Junior Jordan Whitesides is a gifted scorer. Sidney Smith is a strong post player. Eighth grader Morgan Whitesides is already a crackerjack point guard. And Liz Davis and Samantha McCurry are our other two starters and great role players. The game was close from the beginning. At one point in the second half we pulled ahead, only to fall behind by a dozen points. In the closing minutes, the Whitesides sisters lauched a furious comeback and only missed by a jump shot at the buzzer sending the game into overtime. The loss was tough, but when I congratulated Coach Adams on the effort, he looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Don't worry, Dr. Rankin, by the end of the season we will be where we should be." There was a confidence and resolve in his words that left me utterly convinced that our girls team is going places.

I moved up into the bleachers for the boys game. We start junior Ben Carstarphen and four freshman: Abram Olson, Keyshawn Woods, Ben Bennett, and Shontrell Hopper. The game was fairly evenly matched, but our boys began building on a small lead almost from the outset. Keyshawn Woods made several passes and shots that took my breath away. As young as they are, the Spartan boys are talented, unselfish, and tough. How can you look at all that youth and not be optimistic about the future of Spartan boys basketball? We will take our lumps this year at the hands of older, more experienced, and more talented teams, but the future belongs to the Spartans! On this night, we won!

As entertaining as the boys game was, the Gaston Day nerds were a close second. On the top row, Maddy Deely, Laura Gaddis, Nicole Kollman, and Hannah Newcombe were doing a synchronized dance routine that looked like an imitation of the Supremes in their heyday. Stewart Hansen was the most realistic looking nerd. Both Stewart and Blake Porter did solo dance gigs courtside. McKenzie Whalen had on a beenie with a propeller on top that flashed and sparkled as it spun. There were probably thirty to forty GDS middle and upper schoolers having a blast! Rooting for the Spartans and enjoying being teenagers. You could not look at the whole gang without smiling!! The youthful joy was contagious!! A GDS basketball game is a boisterous, wholesome happening, and you really need to be there to experience it. I felt younger just watching!

There were a lot of visitors in attendance both from Gaston Day and Lincoln Charter. I had fun watching them split their attention between the games and our nerds. They would watch the game and applaud the good play. They would look at the nerds and laugh. The whole scene was alive and entertaining!! I guarantee that every one of the visitors left with the favorable impression that Gaston Day students know how to have fun at a basketball game, and that Gaston Day girls and boys basketball teams are worth watching.

Congratulations to Coaches Field, Lutkus, and Adams on creating such wonderful basketball programs. Congratulations to our basketball players on your amazing commitment, teamwork, and hustle. Congratulations to our students for being the zaniest, happiest nuts around. It was simply a great night to be a Spartan!