By STEVE FREKER
MEDFORD— It started with a simple idea: Celebrate the end of the school year by bringing together all the fifth grade students and having a nice field day of competitive events.
Like a lot of good ideas with staying power, the city’s annual Junior Olympics took root and became one of the Medford Public School’s most-popular end-of-the-school-year events.
The 40th Annual Junior Olympics were held with a full slate of events at Hormel Stadium in Medford on Wednesday and close to 300 Medford fifth-graders from the four citywide K-5 schools were on hand to compete and soak in the sunny skies and camaraderie.
As an added attraction, several of the former Medford physical education teachers who helped launch the Junior Olympics 40 years ago were on hand to help usher the event into its fifth decade of participation.
“When we started the (Junior Olympics) back then we had no idea it would be something that would continue for so long,” said Paul Mattatall, one of the original founders and planners of the event.
Now retired, Mattatall went on to a 35-year career as a teacher and coach in the Medford schools.
“Even after the first year, which went well, we did not even know if we would hold it every year. But the students really enjoyed it and started to look forward to it every year,” he said.
Other members of the “40 Year Club” who helped plan the event back in the day were also invited and on hand for Wednesday’s event, including Clorinda Saragosa, Lou Ruggiero and Lou DeAngelis, all retired former elementary school physical education teachers and Jack Dempsey, who is still active in the Medford Public Schools in the audio-visual and tele-production department.
This year’s organizers made it a special event by incorporating a pre-Olympics march which included Olympic Torch bearers Grace Mastromatteo from the Brooks School and J.T. Mastrocola from the McGlynn School as well as flagbearers of the city of Medford Flag by Lorelai Davis of the Roberts Schools; the American Flag by Cullen Mustone of the Roberts School; and Stevens Excilear of the Columbus School, who bore the official POW/MIA Flag to honor veterans who served as either prisoners of war or are still missing in action in our military actions.
Medford Mayor Stephanie M. Burke and other city and school officials were also on hand to greet the student-athletes and cheer them on as well as all the physical education and other teachers from the four Medford schools. Parents were also invited to attend, and many did. Fifth grade students from the McGlynn, Roberts, Columbus and Brooks all participated.