“The Hunger Games” trilogy written by American novelist Suzanne Collins served as link between literature and life at Corvallis High School, Wednesday.

The 7th annual freshman competition included multidisciplinary learning, team building, communication skills development and high energy.

English educator Suzi Pliley said the book “The Hunger Games” has been required reading. The day of reenactment mirrors the book and movie but without the danger.

Pliley said the educational tie-in is that it is a cross-curricular event including ties to health, physical education and English.

“Which is a unique marriage,” Pliley said.

Other curriculums involved geography and science. Computer tech students used Photoshop to make propaganda posters and videos. Advanced art students added makeup to tributes to look like injuries and media arts students filmed the competition. Ag leadership provided public service announcements on hunger in America that were shown on the daily morning news show.

“The freshmen do a huge food drive for Haven House,” Pliley said. “So, they have the social aspect and we talk about how much hunger affects people in our nation, state and valley.”

Weeks ago, the freshman class divided into teams or “districts” and have worked on team-building projects.

Counseling was involved with personality testing and career interest checks assist district members in choosing what role they would play.

“That shows them what they are more prone to be interested in and what they would be good at,” Pliley said. “After reaping, as is done in the book – but it is a positive thing here, they get to choose what would be best for them.”

There were six roles to choose from including tribute (two boys and two girls for each district), mentor, public relations / escort, stylist, game maker and Avox (servant or gofer).

The Hunger Games emcee Caesar Flickermann, for four years played by senior Michael McKay, had a main presence in the production and games.

“His costume is this outlandish glittery blue suit and we try to replicate it as best we can,” McKay said. “This gigantic blue wig is his persona. It is pretty fun and a school-wide promotion.”

In the Hunger Games, the ruling organization is called ‘The Capitol.’ This year following the “Pledge of Allegiance,” the “Capitol Choir” sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Happy Birthday” to Michael McKay.

This is his senior year and last year for being “true blue Caesar.” 

“This has been amazing. I have loved being Caeser. It has added a cool element to the game for me and the tributes too,” McKay said. “What we are practicing here is March Madness and field day all rolled into one big conglomeration and it has been a really neat experience. It is nice for freshman to have something that is all their own that celebrates the work they’ve done in language arts over the last few months.”

Claudia Templesmith, played by junior Madi Bierer, is Flickermann’s side kick who dressed in heels, a curly red-haired wig and a gold sequined dress.

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“I am trying to be Caesar, but I’m not there and just help him boss everybody around,” Bierer said. “I direct people where to go on the floor and tell them to not to break the rules.”

Before the games and challenges began, previous champions, senior Garrett Brown, junior Scott Skelton and sophomore Clay Barcus, were introduced as royalty. Each gave advice to the freshman about how they won.

“Be better than everyone else,” Brown said.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and you have to be the big dog,” Skelton said.

The districts entered the gym to their theme song with their custom-designed flags, signs, hair designs and wardrobes. Every freshman practiced their public speaking skills by using a microphone and describing how they contributed to their district.

The 24 tributes battled it out with strength, stamina, knowledge and problem-solving skills to meet the physical, mental and educational challenges for the title of “ultimate champion.”

Game challenges included an egg carry, cup stacking, foot races, dodgeball, physical fitness circuits (planks, pushups and obstacle courses), knowing the food pyramid and infant CPR, and a reading comprehension challenge. Only those who had read the book knew the answers and could move on to the next level.

Freshman Madison Henry won the hard-fought victory in a close game-ending dodgeball run against Chase Tucker, both in District 8. Her pre-game propaganda posters in the halls said, “Mindset is what separates the best from the rest.”

“I feel pretty awesome right now because I wasn’t expecting to win,” Henry said. “I’m exhausted, very tired.

She said victory came at a cost of effort, energy and quick thinking.

“The toughest challenge of the day for me was the 30-pushups after doing the planks,” she said. “My arms are just dead.”

Henry has been the only girl to win since the first year of the Hunger Games.

Students in the winning district received a pizza party celebration and extra credit in their English class.

Henry’s career as a tribute is not over as she will face the sophomore, junior and senior champions in an all-grade assembly (date yet to be set) during the “Quarter Quell” a return of champions every four years. Champions will battle each other for the main title and bragging rights.

Pliley said the Hunger Games event is fun.

“It is anticipated all year,” she said. “I don’t think the freshman know what to anticipate but the upper classmen build up the enthusiasm. Michael runs a lot of promotional videos from ‘The Capitol’ [on the morning video announcements] and it works out well.”

And, as McKay (as Flickermann) announced over the loudspeaker, “May the odds always be ever in your favor.”