It’s one thing to sit in the stands and cheer for a favorite IJSBA competitor during the World Finals. It’s entirely different to meet the competitor and learn more about their native country.

Sixth-graders from Starline Elementary School got to do all of the above in recent days with a visit Thursday to the World Finals at Crazy Horse Campgrounds, previous classroom assignments and competitors visiting their school.

The only thing the 61 students didn’t get to do during Thursday’s field trip was ride a Jet Ski. The students were thrilled with the experience Thursday of observing the competitors in their element.

The sixth-graders were led by their teachers and chaperones to the competitors’ tents; they got autographs, briefly chatted with them and had the racers point to homelands on a map.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” said Emily McGuire, a student in Matthew Novak’s class. “It’s really cool to meet the different riders, finding where they live on a map and pointing it out.”

Next year, McGuire said she hopes she’s able to compete in her age group at the World Finals.

Before leaving one of the competitors’ tents, a couple of students were seeing who could do the most pushups.

The energetic students visited the personal watercraft enthusiasts who came to their school the previous day, including Anya Colley, of Great Britain and Kevin Reiterer, of Austria.

Colley, 20, who has won multiple world championships, had a welcoming smile as she signed autographs and was greeted with a banner wishing her good luck. Her mother, Michelle, was along for the ride Thursday as she is at all of her daughter’s races.

Anya Colley has raced in Great Britain, all over Europe, Portugal, Belgium, Austria and Thailand, her mother said.

“She usually races against the ladies,” Michelle Colley said. “(But) she likes racing the boys.”

Most of the sixth-grade students had never seen the IJSBA World Finals before, said Bridget Hagest, academic coach at Starline Elementary School.

One of the racers the students stopped to see was from Kuwait. They got out the map, and the racer’s crew took photos of the crowd of students and asked the students to point to their country on the map.

As part of the lesson associated the IJSBA event, the students were assigned to research another country represented at the World Finals. They also were required to meet professional riders from as many of the countries as possible, take group pictures with each pro rider pointing to his or her country and interview the riders, acquiring interesting facts about different customs and traditions from around the world.

For Adrian Reed, he said that he wants more field trips like the one he was on Thursday. Reed was sitting in the stands watching his favorite racer, Reiterer, compete.

Watching all the competition and observing the racers in their element, makes him want to take up Jet Skiing, Reed said.

“Walking around and getting the autographs (was the best part),” Reed said.

The autographs were the favorite part for many of the kids.

“It’s just a really good experience for me,” said Elizabeth Dodds, a sixth-grader in Mrs. Black’s class. “It looks really fun,” she added as she watched the competitors racing.

All of Thursday’s field trip activities might be a bit much to compare to future field trips, Hagest conceded.

“It sets the bar pretty high,” Hagest said.

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