THS Olympics Makes Golden Comeback As COVID Wanes


After a long day of schoolwide rivalry, competitors of the Tenafly High School Olympics made their way to the gym. Members of the THS community shared laughter and connection over the memorable day, one they will cherish as a high school memory. To finish the day of competition, the seniors’ karaoke performance encouraged all the students of all grades to flood the gym floor, all to the beat of Abba’s “Dancing Queen.”  Phone flashlights dotted the gym bleachers as waves of arms carried spirit all throughout the school. While the Olympics has been a tradition at THS for many years, this year was different. Beyond the competition was a celebration: students and staff joyful to be together as one after an extensive time of separation.

The THS Olympics is an annual tradition at Tenafly High School in which all four grades compete in a series of day-long events. Students arrive at school on Olympics Day accordingly prepared, decked in their grade’s colors and filled with school spirit. The school day is reserved for a variety of events, both athletic and academic, enabling students with a diverse variety of passions to participate in activities to their liking. However, this year’s Olympics began with much uncertainty, especially as it took place in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. 

As all students have resumed fully in-person learning in the Tenafly district schools, there were high hopes that the 43rd THS Olympics would resemble the Olympics of pre-COVID years. Many students were underwhelmed with last year’s Olympics, as many adaptations had to be made to accommodate COVID-19 protocols. 

This year, the Olympics Day operated around an abbreviated A-day schedule. Similarly to last year, nonparticipating students would watch the Opening Events unfold from their classrooms via broadcast, whereas in normal years, students would be able to attend these events as spectators in the gym bleachers. “The greatest difference was definitely not having students in the gym for the opening Main Events,” Senior Class Advisor Mrs. Toale said. “While it would have been nice to have a regular Olympics, we understood that this decision was made early on for everyone’s safety. Regardless, the main events were still exciting!” Many students were also disappointed in the decision against allowing spectators in the gym. “I don’t think watching from a screen is the same thing as being in the room and seeing it happen, but maybe we could see that in the coming years” writer Linda Xing (’25) said.

Perhaps the greatest difference between this year’s Olympics and regular years was the lack of enthusiasm of the student body. Student attendance throughout the day had always been a struggle even in regular years. However, this year, the retention rate of students in the building declined even more drastically, perhaps as students were no longer sure of what could be expected. There were also fewer students dressed in their class’s colors, while in normal years it was not uncommon to see students decked in full costumes with crazy wigs, tutus, and face paint.

The uncertainties of this year’s Olympics not only contributed to wavering enthusiasm, but it also proved itself as a major hurdle to the Olympics Committee and the Class Officers as well. “One thing that was unusual was that our Olympic Committee members themselves were out of practice for running a one-day Olympic event, which requires much planning and presents various logistical challenges on the actual day,” Olympic Coordinator Advisor Mrs. Tang-Johnson said. “We also had many new OC members who had never seen a ‘normal’ Olympics. We had to rely heavily on our four senior officers, and were so thankful for their experience and leadership.” Beyond the unfamiliarity of students with a normal Olympics, the recent surge and decline of the Omicron variant called for increased nervousness. “The uncertainty that came with the Omicron surge definitely affected our decisions… This somewhat delayed our planning and publication of our rulebook, which in turn had an effect on the rest of our planning and execution,” Tang-Johnson said.

While the Olympics this year didn’t have all the aspects of those from years prior, there were many highlights from this year’s that made it memorable. To start the day, students were greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors. There was a display of sparkling streamers and heaps of multicolored balloons decorating the hallway, raising spirit for each grade. Hallway decorations were a new addition to the Olympics celebration as of last year. In normal years, each grade would decorate the four corners of the Main Gym in accordance with their theme. However, due to COVID, decorations were brought into the hallways of the school.

Cage ball, one of the most popular Main Gym events, was a huge success.

In addition to this, this year’s Olympics events themselves more or less resembled those of normal years. Some of the more popular events of the day include Tug-of-War, Cage Ball, and Limbo, which provided upperclassmen with a familiar look back at pre-COVID Olympics ceremonies and offered underclassmen a glimpse of the traditional excitement. Writer Liam Tenenbaum (’25) described his cageball experience as “crazy, but a major highlight of the day, and a positive experience for my first Olympics. I would definitely consider it one of the staple events for the day that the THS students look forward to.”

Despite the setbacks, the 43rd Olympics was seen as a great success considering the circumstances. “I was very excited going into this year’s Olympics as I knew a lot of the events would be going back to normal in contrast to last year’s COVID protocol,” Senior Class President Lucy Harper (’22) said. “This year’s Olympics exceeded my expectations and I thought that it brought my grade together in ways I could’ve never imagined.”

The 70s seniors celebrate first place this Olympics.

Particularly for the seniors, this year’s Olympics was especially exciting as it would be their final hurrah. “Students seemed more excited than usual to participate in Olympic events and help prepare for it,” Mrs. Toale said. “This could be because of the fact that they were excited to have some sense of normalcy after what we have experienced during the pandemic and/or the fact that this was our last Olympics as a class.” The seniors’ enthusiasm was definitely the leading force that ultimately led to their Olympics Day victory. “I am incredibly impressed with the turnout and enthusiasm that my grade showed at this Olympics and I am even more proud of our victorious outcome!” Harper said. “I think the Olympics is a great event that brings classes together to work toward a common goal. Especially for seniors, who are starting to realize the finality of their high school experience, the Olympics is an event we never want to forget.”

“I am extremely proud of the senior class as a whole for their enthusiasm and participation in the event and am extremely grateful that I have been able to get to know them over the last four years,” Mrs. Toale said. “I would definitely say it was bittersweet.”

However, this same attitude was not shared by the junior class, which had only experienced one true Olympic Day prior. “There was little to no enthusiasm shared by the junior class. I think, unlike the seniors, the juniors had little reason to be excited about the Olympics, especially after such an underwhelming experience last year,” writer and Junior Class President Jacqueline Kim (’23) said. The juniors, finishing in last place, also ended with the lowest attendance number. However, many of the participating students still managed to have a good time. “I always really enjoy the Olympics, and I think that in a lot of other ways this Olympics felt a lot closer to normalcy,” Kim said. “I actually had to substitute myself into a few events, and I actually ended up having more fun than I would’ve expected. I just hope that more students will take advantage of the Olympics next year and realize how fun the day can be.”

The sophomores came in second place this Olympics.

As for the sophomores, who had only ever experienced the hybridized version of the Olympics in the past, they steadily climbed the ranks throughout the day and managed to secure second place by its close. “Having a ‘fake’ Olympic experience last year, I honestly didn’t have any expectations for this year’s Olympics,” Sophomore Class President Grace Chung (’24) said. “With the Olympic Day still being pretty hectic last year, I expected nothing less from this year.” Despite the sophomores’ second place standing, the officers were dealt many obstacles to begin the day, their greatest concern being their roster that hadn’t been submitted with the correct list of names. However, the class of 2024 was able to pull through with its shocking number of enthused students. “Honestly, I wouldn’t exactly say even I did anything to excite my grade besides making Olympics my only topic of conversation,” Chung said. “I could be in gym class and watch two kids play badminton, and I would be like, ‘You guys should use those skills for the Olympics. I’ll text you guys in about two weeks.’

“I could not be more grateful and proud of my class,” Chung said. “I have to say the Olympics was a very tough season for me, but at the end of the day, my grade members took charge and popped themselves into events that they knew were empty, and everyone brought their A-game.”

Although it was their first Olympics, the freshmen managed to clinch third place, a mere two points ahead of the juniors. With poor pre-event performance, the freshman came into Olympic Day 40 points behind the rest of their adversaries, making their final placement quite the surprising development to many students and staff. “There was definitely a lack of excitement in our grade because we have never been to the Olympics before. I was hoping that older siblings and friends would pass down positive Olympic experiences to raise excitement for us as newcomers, but most of our grade was a no show. I know it was disappointing for the other class officers and me, but we did have a handful of dedicated students that made all the effort feel worth it,” Freshman Class President Liam Tenenbaum (’25) said. “I hope people will realize that the Olympics is something very special that they can only experience four times in their lives, while going home to relax is something that you can do every weekend. While some of the events and traditions seem silly, they will create a long-lasting memory that you don’t want to miss out on.”

Overall, the 43rd Olympics was a great experience for all four grades alike, returning slowly and surely back to normal. With this year’s glimpse of its traditional excitement, hopefully next year’s Olympics will be even more successful with the aid of student body spirit. “These Olympics more than met my expectations,” Mrs. Tang-Johnson said. “It was wonderful seeing students have so much fun all together again, which is the point of the Olympics. We would love to see the event come back in its original form next year, complete with opening Main Gym events that all students can attend.”