LAYTON -- After months of training, Sandra Ellis' physical education students from West Point Elementary School put their fitness skills to the test.
As part of Davis School District's second annual Decathlon on Fitness, hundreds of elementary school students gathered at Northridge High School on Tuesday and Wednesday to compete in 10 fitness events. The contests ranged from cup stacking and jumping rope to push-ups and running.
Ellis brought three grade-level teams to compete. Each team was composed of four students from the fourth, fifth or sixth grade. The teams competed against similar teams from each of the district's 59 elementary schools.
"The competition includes five activities that elementary schools use for fitness assessment, and the other five are activities that they should be doing on a regular basis in a quality physical education program," said Timothy Best, Davis School District's elementary physical education supervisor.
Fifth-grader Paityn Williams, 11, said she competed last year on Ellis' fourth-grade team, where they took third place. She was hoping her fifth-grade team would take first place this year.
"It will get you stronger and get you really in shape," Paityn said. "We are more prepared than a lot of these teams because we have been practicing for two months and one day."
Ellis said she put her teams together after she tested the students on their physical fitness according to district guidelines. Her teams are composed of responsible students who scored well on their physical fitness test.
The competition was initiated to help combat the high rate of obesity in Utah by developing healthy habits in children when they are young, Ellis said.
"The decathlon works every muscle. It helps you get a lot stronger," said Avery Huot, 11, a member of West Point's fifth-grade team. "We've learned better running techniques and better stretches."
The gym was filled with sounds of jump ropes hitting the floor, basketballs bouncing and children's feet running.
As Colton Manning, 12, finished his turn with the jump rope, he raved about the fun he has while competing.
"It's really competitive. Usually when you win a medal, it's really flabbergasting ... You learn a lot of skills and you learn your body's strengths and what your body can and can't do," Colton said.
Sixth-grader Jessica Jude, 12, said she enjoys playing soccer and softball after school, but really enjoyed training for the decathlon.
"I have a real passion for sports. I really like to play as a team with other kids and see what level I'm at and what I need to work on," Jessica said.
"The kids are motivated. They have the self-efficacy, the self-confidence that they otherwise wouldn't have," said Tia Cornelius, a secondary physical education teacher helping with the competition.
Best said the event also helps him determine what skills need to be addressed within elementary students in the district.
"I can look at the data from the competition, and I can design our P.E. programs in Davis district around the deficiencies," he said.
Last year's event revealed that the students needed help with their accuracy throws and upper-body strength. He then focused workshops and training on these skills to better equip P.E. teachers with skills to combat these weaknesses.
"I like to tell the kids that life is like a fitness continuum. We want them to move toward the healthy end, rather than the unhealthy end. Plus, this event gives these kids a chance to shine."