Flagstaff Unified School District fourth and fifth graders got a chance to work out with college athletes Tuesday morning before watching the Lumberjack women’s basketball team take on New Mexico Highlands University in the Skydome. (For a story on the game, see Sports, B1.)
In the fourth annual basketball field trip, 950 elementary school students went through stations with college athletes, who taught them cheers, showed them different exercises and played games like the three-legged race and relay races.
Sonja Leeds, a parent of a fourth-grader at Cromer Elementary School, said her daughter loves NAU, and was excited to get to meet the athletes from different teams in person.
“She woke up so excited to get to see the women’s team play,” Leeds said. “We have season tickets to football but it is good for her to see another sport and get to meet the athletes.”
Athletes from various sports, including football, cheer and tennis, led different stations with the students, and said the field trip was a good way to get to interact with students who love the Lumberjacks.
“I love it,” said Sarah Spruch, a former NAU tennis player. “They have so much joy and passion in what they do. They look up to us like we are some sort of idol.”
Spruch said the students have grown up near NAU, and getting to show them where the Lumberjacks play helps the kids connect with the larger Flagstaff community.
“They appreciate NAU so much,” Spruch said. “They grow up with NAU being part of their lives, so it’s great to get them started early.”
Touring the facility and meeting with current students also helps the students get comfortable on a college campus, district spokeswoman Karin Eberhard said.
“This benefits them in a lot of ways,” Eberhard said. “They are so excited to come, and the more time they spend on a college campus, the better.”
NAU Athletics Assistant Director of Marketing Brynne Davis coordinated the event, and she said fourth- and fifth-graders go on the field trip because college is beginning to be a thought for them and their families.
“In fifth grade, they’re starting to get college in their minds,” Davis said. “This is their hometown university and we want them to cheer for us. This is an opportunity to get them here to experience a college campus and see a collegiate basketball game.”
Teachers said the event has gotten better each year, and said it gave the students a good opportunity to see kids from other schools and make new friends.
“It builds community as a whole within the district,” said Jon Helleson, a fifth-grade teacher at DeMiguel. “They get to see kids from other schools and mix into new groups.”
He said he liked to see his students trying new exercises that they would not normally do at school, and said the dancing and activities were a great way to get students interacting with NAU athletes.
Helleson said many of his students are NAU fans, who wore their own NAU gear to prepare for the field trip.
“To be inside the Skydome is huge for them,” he said. “It promotes NAU games for the kids as well because they are so excited to come back. To have NAU team up with FUSD, it really shows the strong community here.”
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“She woke up so excited to get to see the women’s team play. We have season tickets to football but it is good for her to see another sport and get to meet the athletes.”
--Sonja Leeds, parent of a fourth-grader