On Friday, students at Hayes High School packed the auditorium after being forced in from the rain after the final event of the House Games to hear the final score and to learn which house would win the coveted House Cup.
Steamtown, who had won four of the five previous House Cups heading into this school year, competed throughout the day with Ridge and Houk as the lead shifted between Steamtown and Houk several times during the event’s numerous competitions, which included track and field, photography and “name that tune.”
Because the rain forced the House Games finale to move indoors, there were no microphones set up so Assistant Principal Rex Reeder had to shout the final scores to the stands full of students. The students in Ridge erupted in cheers when they heard their house take third place, and as Hayes Principal Dr. Ric Stranges prepared to read the second place team, the gym fell silent.
“Houk House!” he shouted. The students adorned in dark blue Houk shirts did not react and sat still as the Steamtown students spilled from the stand to take the House Cup once again.
Steamtown House Dean Josh Lamb was swarmed by students and teachers offering congratulations as Steamtown students cheered and held up the House Cup.
Lamb said he’s glad students from all the houses got so into the competition, and he’s proud of how Steamtown students stepped up during the House Games.
“Houk is good. … that Houk House group they battled, it was back and forth all day,” Lamb said. “It’s just fun to have a competitive group of kids. They go out there and compete as hard as they can, and they do everything we ask of them. We had some events where kids didn’t show up, and we just asked them to step up and do their best and kids did. It’s not always about winning the event, it’s about doing what’s best for the house, and I think our kids really buy into that really, really well.”
Lamb said there isn’t a secret to his house’s winning streak.
“They compete hard and want to win,” Lamb said. “It doesn’t hurt when they have a tradition of winning.”
Reeder, the architect of the House System and the House Cup at Hayes has said in the past that one of the goals was to build community at the school. On Friday, he said the passion, competition, and camaraderie between students “means everything.”
“There’s a lot of energy this year,” Reeder said. “I thought we had a good vibe today. I saw a lot of teamwork in a lot of kids. I think we have a winner, but they’re all winners. Everybody gets to compete, and to be honest, how many schools get a chance to have a day like this in high school and have this much participation?”
Reeder said one of his favorite parts of the day was seeing the students compete in the track and field events and seeing students in the bleachers cheer on all the students, not just the front-runners.
“The other teams that didn’t win it, their excitement with each other is telling,” Reeder said. “It shows we’re on the right path of trying to do the right things for kids. It’s amazing to see all the kid’s different talents.”
Reeder said he was proud of the staff and the students throughout the event.
“I think you need days like this where the kids can just have fun and be a kid and go play,” Reeder said. “I can’t say enough about the staff. House Games were outstanding. It’s a whole team effort, and all the staff pitches in. I can’t thank them enough for doing it.”
Kathy Kraus, the House Dean of Houk, said losing to Steamtown was tough, but she’s happy with her house.
“I’m very proud of the community the Houk students and teachers have worked to build this year,” Kraus said. “To lose by five points two years in a row is a hard pill to swallow but that gives us more motivation to get back to it next year.”
This will be the last House Games for Jake Shafer, a math teacher in Prospect Hill, as he leaves the district to become assistant principal at Olentangy Liberty High School.
“It has been really hard, a really hard day, but I’m just so happy to have been a part of it for the better part of a decade,” Shafer said. “It’s been really awesome.”
Shafer said Friday would hopefully not be his last House Games, however, as he plans to try and bring the program to his future school.
“The more people from our school who go into leadership, the more chances that programs like this spread, and that’s a big deal,” Shafer said.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.