By Caleb Nordgren
Holt Journal staff writer
While the rest of the country is obsessed with the NCAA Tournament, or March Madness, Hope Middle School is leaving that aside for a day in favor of its own March madness.
On March 28, Hope will end classes early for a talent show and a basketball mini-tournament. The event is the brainchild of former Hope Principal Dean Manikas, and the culmination of Hope’s Spirit Week, with spring break starting upon the conclusion of the event.
This year, spirit week features pajama day, wacky hair day and superhero day on the first three days of the week, said fifth grade teacher Shannon Stavischeck.
Joe Cleary, a teacher at Hope and the main organizer of this year’s event, said it has been running for seven or eight years.
“We were just looking for an event that would build excitement and school spirit,” he said.
March Madness kicks off with a talent show. Stavischeck said tryouts are typically held a few weeks before the show with one mandatory practice for the performers before their actual performances, but the bulk of the preparation falls on the students themselves.
The basketball tournament features four teams of fifth graders and four teams of sixth graders. Each grade’s teams battle it out among themselves first, with the winner of the fifth grade bracket facing the winner of the sixth grade bracket. Cleary said the overall winner isn’t necessarily obvious.
“You’d think it would always be sixth grade,” he said. “But I will tell you, the fifth grade did win one year.”
Once a student team has been crowned, it gets to play a team of staff members. Cleary said while the staff usually wins, it has lost before. One year, the student team featured a girl who would go on to play basketball at a Division I college and was, in Cleary’s words, “the best player on the court.” He also claimed the staff doesn’t take the game too seriously.
Manikas, now executive director of curriculum for Hope, said the “crowds are unbelievable.” There is no prize for any winning team because “the kids never asked for one,” he said.
The games will be refereed by Holt High School basketball players, both men’s and women’s. Manikas said when the Holt men’s team won the state title in 2005, the players came over to Hope to ref games and were essentially mobbed. Manikas called it “quite a rush.”
Stavischeck, who has been involved in the event for about five years, said her strongest March Madness memory came about three years ago, when a fellow Hope teacher was dealing with pancreatic cancer. She said the teacher came to the talent show and a group of students sang “Amazing Grace” in his honor.
“It was so poignant,” she said.
March Madness will start at 1 p.m. March 28 at Hope Middle School, 2020 Park Lane.