“If you ever want to get rid of me, just hold one of those things in my face!” exclaims a fifth grade girl to a classmate at John D. Sutter Elementary School’s 50th Annual Frog Jump on April 24.
“I just kissed a frog!” exclaims a braver girl, perhaps hoping to turn it into Prince Charming.
The fifth graders were the first in line at 9 a.m. to lead off the school’s famed frog jump, which hit the half-century mark this year. That’s a lot of frogs on campus.
This year, 148 frogs would make some 400 jumps–two or three jumps per frog–as all the school’s students lined up throughout the day to jump the frog that was randomly selected for them.
Within the first hour of the contest, fifth grader Isaac’s frog, which he named Froggy Froggertons, had made what would turn out to be the record jump of the day: 17 feet 8 inches in three leaps from the starting pad.
“I feel awesome about my frog jump. I’ve never had such a long frog jump before,” he says, adding, “Frogs jump farther if you make a lot of noise.”
The students study frogs during the week before the jump.
“Frogs are really interesting creatures who have amazing ways to escape from predators–and sometimes humans,” says fifth grader Isabelle. “They’re important to the ecosystem because they control the bug population in swamps and rivers.”
Returning alumni such as Karen Rarey from Brentwood and Kathy Brown from Pollock Pines, also jumped frogs.
“Things change in life, but this is one thing that hasn’t changed,” says Brown. “I wouldn’t miss the 50th anniversary.”
“A student once told me that having the frog jump was like waiting for Christmas morning,” says retired teacher Sandy Overbaugh, who taught at Sutter for 40 years.
“Sutter is such a close knit community, and events like this bring back the alumni and great memories of Sutter,” says Principal Michael Fong.
One of the big questions, of course, is “Where do they get all those frogs?”
“Three of us went out at night and caught them in Los Banos area,” says retired Sutter teacher Bill Guzules. “They came from a pond and five irrigation canals.” One person shines a light and the other two are catchers. Except for some smaller frogs for the kindergarteners, each frog they kept measured the minimum legal length of four inches, nose to tail.
Friday night, Guzules and his team returned all 148 frogs safely to their homes, making sure that the same number that were removed from each body of water were also returned there.
Sutter’s student and alumni frog jump winners will go on to jump frogs at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee at Angels Camp May 14 to 17 (www.frogtown.org).
Guzules and Lee Giudici, a retired Sutter teacher who died in January 2014, started the frog jump at Sutter. In 1986, Giudici’s frog Rosie the Ribiter set the world record at the Calaveras County frog jump. Rosie’s 21-foot 5 3/4-inch jump still holds the record.
As well as being the 50th anniversary of Sutter School’s frog jump, which is financed and sponsored by the PTA, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Mark Twain’s story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” which inspired the annual Calaveras County frog jump.
“This is such a unique event. Santa Clara has great schools that have unique personalities, and Sutter has embraced the frog theme,” says SCUSD Board member Jodi Muirhead, waiting in line to jump a frog.