THE OLYMPICS came early when schoolchildren ran a torch-wielding relay race alongside teachers, parents, the mayor – and a priest.
Youngsters at St Thomas More Catholic Primary, Bedhmapton, wound up a week of sport-themed activties and lessons in possession of Havant’s version of the Olympic torch with an eye-catching send-off.
Ten pupils representing each class joined hands with an adult to run a relay with the torch for a baton to its next home, Barncroft Juniors, 800 metres down the road.
Andrew Palmer, eight, who paired up with Father Tom Grufferty of St Joseph’s Havant, said: ‘It was so much fun. It was like I was part of the Olympics – and that the torch was real. Father Tom was an excellent running partner but towards the end of we got a bit out of sync.
‘I’m so excited the Olympics are coming to London. I hope I get a ticket and see Great Britain win lots of medals.’
Jessica Balchin, 11, had the honour of running the last leg of the relay with headteacher Colin Flanagan. She said: ‘I’m really proud of our school because we’ve risen to the challenge and we’re all 100 per cent behind the Olympics .
‘This whole week has been amazing. We’ve learnt a lot about the Olympics and the values it represents and it’s given us all a real sense of the build-up to the Games.’
Father Tom, 65, admitted he enjoyed running at top speed in his vestments.
He said: ‘When we set out and had the entire school cheering us and the cameras on us I felt as though I was competing in the Olympics.
‘I do exercise regularly so thankfully it wasn’t a complete shock to the system.’
The Olympic torch represents a major Havant and Waterlooville School Sports Partnership initiative, which aims to pass it to every single school in the area in the run-up to the London 2012 Games.
Erika Meades, teacher and PE co-ordinator who organised the day, said: ‘I’m so grateful to the entire school community for embracing the spirit of the Olympics.
‘The Games will be a wonderful opportunity for all our children, some of whom are aspiring to one day compete in the Olympics.
‘I hope they watch the relay races and think they also played their part.’