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Northampton schools' first staff triathlon termed a success

Participants in the Northampton schools' inaugural Eat2bHealthy Triathlon Oct. 27 prepare for the 15-mile bike ride segment of the competition, starting at JFK Middle School. Northampton High School Principal Nancy Athas is in front. Also pictured are (from left): volunteer Dawn Kessell, Christa Chiarello, JFK guidance counselor, and JFK teachers Will Bangs and John Crescitelli. Photo courtesy of Michelle Mallory.

Participants in the Northampton schools' inaugural Eat2bHealthy Triathlon Oct. 27 prepare for the 15-mile bike ride segment of the competition, starting at JFK Middle School. Northampton High School Principal Nancy Athas is in front. Also pictured are (from left): volunteer Dawn Kessell, Christa Chiarello, JFK guidance counselor, and JFK teachers Will Bangs and John Crescitelli. Photo courtesy of Michelle Mallory.

The Eat2bHealthy Triathlon, comprised of a quarter-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and 5K run, was the culmination of seven months of planning and training. All 75 contestants crossed the finish line.

Superintendent Brian Salzer, an experienced runner and founder of the event, said the race created “unbelievable camaraderie” among city teachers.

“People learned more about each other and really pulled together that day,” he said. “That’s what made it a real success.”

As for whether the competition will become an annual occurrence, Salzer said he wanted some time to consider that, but added, “it’s too positive an event to let it go.”

In the team competition, Catherine Smith, Kate Dollard and Dan Moylan of Northampton High School took gold; Kate Parrott, John Crescitelli and Nancy Cheevers of JFK Middle School won silver; and Sara Simmons, Greg Kerstetter and Maureen Ryan of R.K. Finn Ryan Road School won bronze.

Individual trianthlon winners were:

20-29 age group: Hershel Levine (JFK), gold; Nicole Tingle (NHS), silver. (This category had only two participants).

30-39: Salem Derby (NHS), gold and overall male winner; Jed Dion (Bridge Street School), silver; Sara Harvey (district physical therapist), bronze.

40-49: Andrew Foster (Leeds School), gold; Michelle Andrews (Ryan Road), silver and overall female winner; Jolie Smith (Jackson Street School), bronze.

50-59: Garret Adams (Jackson Street), gold; Jon Sass (NHS), silver; Andrea James (JFK), bronze.

Area businesses donated food, water and a pace car for the event. School administrators and School Committee members handled registration, timekeeping and picture taking — among other tasks.

Adams, who teaches English language learners at Jackson Street, said the race felt better than many of the training runs he’d taken.

“It was such fun to participate,” said Adams, whose wife, Beth, a teacher at NHS, was also in the triathlon. “It’s the first time I can think of that we’ve done something like this outside of school.”

JFK Assistant Principal Sal Canata, who handed timekeeping, said “it was great to be at the finish line, watching our colleagues — some with very impressive times — and seeing everyone rally around the finishers.”

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Triathlon coda

Salzer was set to run in the Nov. 4 New York City Marathon, which was cancelled at the last minute due to Superstorm Sandy. Instead, he ran with thousands of others on a shortened route through Central Park in a gesture of solidarity with storm victims. On Monday, Salzer was boarding a bus back to Northampton, according to Tracy Harrity, executive secretary for the school department.

•••

Flu shots offered

The city schools are offering flu shots to Northampton High School students on Wednesday and JFK Middle School students on Thursday. Consent forms have been sent home and are also available online at http://healthservices.northampton-k12.us.

Karen Jarvis-Vance, the district’s director of Health Services, Health Education and Safety, said flu shots for school employees will be available by appointment after the student clinics.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu vaccine this season to protect as many people as possible from the dangers of seasonal flu.

•••

Star of school

When Neal Ahearn, a veteran custodian at R.K. Finn Ryan Road school, saw something lying on a hallway floor during his evening shift earlier this month, he thought it was a skein of yarn. A closer look revealed a six-inch snake.

Rather than toss the creature out, Ahearn went into one of the science classrooms and found a terrarium with a roof, where he deposited his wriggling find. “I thought it would make a neat project,” he said.

Ahearn was right. For the next several days, the baby garter snake was the star of the school, traveling around to various classrooms for observation, drawing, research and even a photo-op with one of the school’s new document cameras.

Hayden Matrishon, a student in Andrea Egitto’s first-grade class, took the snake — a female, who’d been given several names by then — home for the weekend.

What did she learn from the experience?

“Most people think this, but it’s not true: Snakes don’t have slime,” Matrishon said.

A few days later, her class took on the task of releasing the snake into the woods behind the school.

Afterwards, the students wrote letters to Ahearn, thanking him for finding the young reptile and describing her fate.

“It was beautiful as a butterfly,” wrote Marisa Finn.

“We let the snake go free,” wrote first grade classmate, Jadrian Garcia.

Barbara Solow can be reached at bsolow@gazettenet.com.

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