A reflection on 68 years of Gym Night

Neshaminy High School’s most remarkable tradition

Kaylee Higgins, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Neshaminy High School’s beloved tradition of Gym Night has sustained nearly 70 years. The annual event consists of competitive relays and creative dances, putting the Blue (last names A-K) and Red Teams (last names L-Z) head to head. It is not outlandish to say that Gym Night has grown to become an NHS trademark since it began in 1954, becoming the envy of other high schools’ field days.
Throughout the teams’ 68 years of competing, the Red Team has accumulated 37 wins, the Blue Team following closely behind with 31 wins.
The traditions, relays, preparation, and costumes have transformed from decades before, having involved cheerleaders from each team and gymnastics. Each team had its own “fight song” special for Gym Night. Even Neshaminy Junior High participated in Gym Night.
Relays dating back to the 1960s included activities like volleyball, tennis, cage ball, pie eating, bowling, rope climbing, marching, tumbling and even those with names as unheard of as “human croquet”, “skipping hula hoops”, and “clothes relays”. Captains were also required to teach German and Russian folk dances.
Teams earned points for winning a relay or dance, cheering, sportsmanship, and decorations, as they do now.
As the years went on, teams were expected to create dances of a higher caliber, with new points being added to the scoreboard. Teams were judged on their organization, murals, most visits to the Chick-Fil-A fundraiser, and most peanut butter or jelly donations.
Sue Eagen, Carl Sandburg office secretary and former Gym Night participant, recalls the process and effort of creating costumes, which have significantly changed.
“I remember a mom making our costumes, and we would all lie out trying them on,” Eagen explained. “We had to come in on–say a Monday–and they would say, ‘Go home, you have to do this, you have to cut this. Everyone bring them back on Wednesday’.”
From 1988-89, Gym Night was under the direction of Fred Gerst, former Physical Education and Health Chairperson at NHS. With his help among many others, Gym Night as a whole has soared to higher levels.
Kathleen Cortsen, former Gym Night participant from 1970-72, believes participating in Gym Night was one of her fondest high school memories.

“[Cortsen’s mother] brought the idea for ‘Gym Night’ to Neshaminy–[previously called] the Cherry Street School– from her days at Trenton High School in the 1940’s,” Cortsen said.
Barbara Rambo, former Gym Night captain from 1960-62 reflects on the moments of preparation being the most memorable and appreciates the strong bonds that students form during Gym Night.
“I still have a group of about a dozen girlfriends I painted some of the decorations with. We still get together over lunch about once a month,” Rambo averted. “I think it’s really cool that [60] years later, we’re still talking.”
Rambo emphasizes the importance of the skills participants learn, especially being a part of something of Gym Night’s large scale.
“I would encourage everyone, if they can, to get involved because [Gym Night builds] lifetime memories. Winning or losing, I know at the moment [it seems like] life or death, but in the long run, it doesn’t matter,” Rambo expressed. “All that matters is you participated and had fun. It will serve you a lifetime, learning how to work with other people, being a part of a team, and a part of a bigger effort.”
Without the support and engagement of the community, Gym Night would not still be the event that we all know and love.
“There’s so many more people that contribute that make [Gym Night] what it is nowadays,” Eagen mentioned.
Sportsmanship and spirit are on full display and are the most defining elements of Gym Night, which spur the community’s appreciation. Despite being an extremely competitive match-up that splits the student body for the weekend, the Neshaminy Community can agree that the meaning of this event is to bring Neshaminy together for a memorable weekend full of excitement.
Amy Geruc, current Gym Night advisor and Health and Physical Education Department Head, has seen and experienced Gym Night come together as both a captain and an advisor. Geruc values participants’ reactions the most.
“[Gym Night is] just the biggest event that brings Neshaminy together as one. I wear my purple shoes every Gym Night because I truly am ‘Team Purple’ as soon as I walk out of my office on Gym Night. It is the most rewarding tradition here at Neshaminy,” Geruc asserted. “I’ve never seen so many smiles in one place.”