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Honoring the Godfrogger at Sutter Elementary’s 51

Honoring the Godfrogger at Sutter Elementary's 51st Frog Jump

“Mr. Matasci and I frogged our secret frogging hole last night,” retired Sutter Elementary School teacher Bill Guzules posted on the Sutter Frogs Facebook page last week.

“Caught over 50 frogs in an hour. We could have had 100 if we needed them. Nothing like a couple of hot days to get the frogs out and about. We now have 150+ for the 51st jump,”

Guzules, known and honored as the Godfrogger, and fellow frogger Denny Matasci collected 153 bullfrogs–including 35 small ones for the younger children to jump – on night trips to Los Banos, Gustine and Dos Palos, each a two-and-a-half-hour roundtrip drive.

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The amphibians relaxed in Guzules’ garage, AKA the frog spa, resting up for Sutter’s annual frog jump on a wet Earth Day, April 22. It is California’s second longest running official jump.

“We loved the event. Even though it was raining very hard, it was really fun and unforgettable,” said Elena Baykova, whose daughter, Vika, a kindergartener, jumped her first frog. 

“It felt slippery,” said Vika, who named her frog Frogleapy.

The 500 Sutter students, about 30 Sutter alumni, and Santa Clara Unified School District board members Jodi Muirhead and Andrew Ratermann lined up for a chance to break Sutter’s record jump: 19 feet (18 feet 5 inches according to another source).

“It takes a really hot day to set a record. Today we’re warming the frogs in warm water before they jump,” said Guzules.

It was only the third time in 51 years that it had rained the day of the jump. One jump arena was outside under cover and a second in the multi-purpose room.

The minimum four-inch (nose tip to tailless end) American bullfrogs, considered invasive in California, were plucked from a covered container and handed to each jumper. Students measured the jumps, caught the frogs with nets and returned them to a burlap bag, and kept the distance records.

A few fifth graders shared their knowledge of frogs.

“The reason why frogs have darker undersides and are light on top is so predators can’t see them. It’s self-defense so they can’t be eaten,” said Michael.

“The most poisonous frogs are poison dart frogs. They used to be used to put poison on darts,” said Rachel.

“Some frogs can be used as medicine,” said Eloise.

“Frogs and toads can be different and alike,” began Emma.

“All classrooms participate in a school-wide theme of learning about science and ecology, and the culminating activity is the frog jump,” said Sutter Principal Michael Fong. “All the frogs are taken care of humanely and returned to the exact location of their habitat.”

Alas, even with a quick kiss to the frog for encouragement, Ratermann’s frog failed to set a record. The champion frog jumped 17 feet 7 inches in three big leaps – one inch shy of Sutter’s 2015 record.

The student and alumni winners are sanctioned to jump frogs at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee at Angels Camp May 19 to 22 (www.frogtown.org). Rosie Rules Thirty Years – 1986 to 2016 – is the jubilee theme, honoring the late Lee Giudici, a former Sutter teacher whose frog Rosie the Ribiter set the still-standing world record with a 21-foot 5 3/4-inch jump.

It was Guzules’ last year to catch the frogs for Sutter’s annual frog jump, which he and Giudici began in 1965.

“After 51 years, I’m tired,” Guzules said. “I’ll still help, but somebody else will catch them. We’re training a new team in July.”

“Over the past five decades Mr. Guzules has brought learning, fun, and excitement to the Sutter students and community,” said Fong.

“The Frog Jump is a prime example of how teachers, parents, and community can work together to engage our students in enriching, meaningful experiences that foster the love of learning and a sense of community,” wrote PTA president Yvonne Hirsch in an email. “When you can sustain that over a long period of time and impact thousands of people, that is true legacy. It is indeed an honor and a privilege for Sutter PTA to be a partner in this endeavor.”

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