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Let the games begin

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Troy Ektnitphong (left) and Ian Stewart show their school spirit Friday at Worthington High School. Students in District 518 will enjoy the opportunity to dress in different themes this week as part of Homecoming festivities.

WORTHINGTON - A full week of athletics, activities and royal antics -- not to mention ongoing academics -- lies ahead for District 518 students, as Worthington High School (WHS) celebrates its annual Homecoming.

"This is probably one of the best weeks of the entire year," extolled Paul Karelis, WHS principal. "When you see the Trojan pride come out in all the different classes, student activities and athletics, it builds the student culture and makes a connection with all the programs we have.

"It's a great feeling to have in high school."

Homecoming festivities bring several high points throughout the week, which actually began last Friday at WHS with a mini morning pep fest. There, Homecoming royalty finalists were announced. A Homecoming king and queen will be selected from among 12 senior girls and boys, while the rest of the court is comprised of two students elected from each of the three underclass grades.

"Coronation is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the high school gymnasium," said Kerry Johnson, one of two WHS student council advisors. WHS student council members organize and help plan many of the week's activities, including the coronation event.

"The student council kids are well organized and have great ideas," added Johnson.

Among those ideas are the week's "theme days," which allow for students and interested faculty alike to adjust their outfits in accord with the daily themes, and the week's overall theme -- "Let the Games Begin" for 2012, playing off the recent summer Olympics as well as the popularity of "The Hunger Games" books and movie.

"The kids get to act goofy and it's acceptable," explained Karelis, who said he might surprise his staff and students by dressing up himself for a day or two.

While Homecoming activities are naturally centered at the high school, Worthington Middle School (WMS) and Prairie Elementary staff help their scholars get into the act somewhat, too.

"We do a lot, actually," said Tony Hastings, WMS assistant principal. "The WMS student council decorates our building in red and black, and we have the theme days, as well.

"On Friday, we have the academic recognition program assemblies called Renaissance in the morning, and in the afternoon our seventh- and eighth-grade boys' football teams scrimmage in front of the whole school," Hastings detailed. "Midway through the scrimmages, our sixth- through eighth-grade marching band will play their parade song and march around the track, and the boys' and girls' soccer teams will also play a scrimmage."

Hastings said the goal at WMS is to help the students "feel a part of things" and to shine a spotlight on events that not every student is even aware happens at WMS.

"The middle school athletics programs get fairly small crowds for their sporting events, and not every kid gets the chance to attend high school athletic events," Hastings said. "Plus, the band isn't always seen by everyone, so this is a way for everyone in the school to see these things and get a feel of the Homecoming spirit."

WHS students visit WMS and Prairie Elementary during lunch hours throughout the week to sell Trojan spirit wear -- beads, scarves, buttons and T-shirts.

"We acknowledge Homecoming week on a lower key level at Prairie, but we still like the kids to be aware of what's going on and to get a little taste of the spirit," shared Heidi Meyer, assistant principal at Prairie Elementary. "It's fun for them."

Meyer said the WHS Homecoming king and queen visit Prairie on Friday of Homecoming week, mingling with students and acting like, well, royalty.

"They've worn their robes and crowns in the past, and the kids love it when the king and queen come," assured Meyer. "The younger kids are in awe of them and think they are truly royalty.

"It adds to the excitement and the different grade levels get to enjoy it," Meyer continued. "We also encourage everyone to dress in red and black on Friday."

Scheduling quirks have led Homecoming week to land at the same time as King Turkey Day events for the second time within a few years, making for an even busier several days than usual.

"There are challenges making things work every week, whether it's Homecoming, Turkey Day or any other week of the school year," said Mike Traphagen, District 518 activities director.

Nevertheless, students and staff both seem to enjoy Homecoming and the undercurrent of excitement it annually delivers.

Admitted Hastings, "It's one of my favorite weeks here, too."

"It's an exciting time," added Karelis. "We want to engage and involve as many students as possible."

District 518 Home activities during Homecoming week include:

Monday: Theme - Backwards/inside out day at WHS, Pajama day at WMS; JV football vs. Fairmont, 4:30 p.m. at Trojan Field; girls' soccer vs. Fairmont, 5 p.m. JV at WHS field, 6:45 varsity at Trojan Field

Tuesday: Theme - Duct tape day at WHS, Fake an Injury day at WMS; boys' soccer (varsity only) at SW MN Christian, 4 p.m.; Coronation, 7:30 p.m., WHS gym (nominal admission fee)

Wednesday: Theme - Clone day at WHS, Sunglasses, Hat or Jersey day at WMS

Thursday: Theme - Class color day at WHS, Mismatch day at WMS; girls' tennis vs. Marshall at WMS courts, 4:15 p.m.; 45th annual Turkey Trot cross country invite at Prairie View, 4:30 p.m.; 9th grade football vs. Luverne at Trojan Field, 5:30 p.m.

Friday: Theme - Spirit day at WHS, WMS and Prairie; WHS football vs. Pipestone, 7 p.m. at Trojan Field; pep fest by day, dance by night (students only) at WHS