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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Long tradition carried on at Tzouanakis

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tzouanakis students gear up for the sack race at Little Olympics Tuesday morning, an event that is part of the second-longest running tradition for Greencastle elementary schools.
A long running annual tradition that began in the 1930s took place Tuesday. The Little Olympics at Tzouanakis Intermediate School is the second longest standing tradition in Greencastle. Only graduation has gone on longer.

"Some of us remember taking part in Little Olympics when we were going to school," said school nurse Polly Shuee. "It's been a tradition for a long, long time."

Little Olympics was the brainchild of Marvin Crawley, who was a coach in the school system in the 1930s.

"There were only three elementary schools then, Ridpath, Jones and Miller. Eventually Northeast joined in," recalled Mike Tzouanakis.

"At one point the middle school took part but eventually it ended up being a competition between the elementary schools. And, boy, were they competitive," added Tzouanakis.

Students have the choice of participating in the field and track events. Sack races, wheelbarrow races and other events were part of the early Olympics.

"We wanted to make sure there were events for any child to participate in. Some were too shy to want to run. With sack races and particularly the wheelbarrow race, you could team up together," recalled Tzouanakis.

Parents back then volunteered to be judges and help with statistics and other jobs. Many of the parents volunteering in Little Olympics today were participants in the earlier days.

"The Kiwanis Club bought all the ribbons for the kids in the beginning. That's always an important part -- all the kids love getting ribbons," said Tzouanakis.

In the late 1950s Tzouanakis took over the event and ran the Little Olympics until 1991. During that time, he was a teacher and principal at Jones and Northeast Elementary schools.

He tries to come back every year, although he occasionally may not make it because he works for Bobby Rahal's racing team.

"I was afraid rain might delay the race (Indy 500) and I would miss it," he said. "I don't think in all the years I took part in Little Olympics we ever got rained out."

Some of the other events for kids in addition to running include a soccer ball kick, lobbing tennis balls and the sack race.

The highlight of the day is the stick relay, which is the last event to take place.

Tzouanakis gym teacher Trish Lowe explained that the four fastest runners from each class compete in the stick run.

"I've been doing this for 28 years," she recalled. "This is always the highlight of the day."

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