Staff Writer

ASHTABULA - - That was some smell.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School smelled like old sneakers Monday as the school held a dirty smelly sneaker contest.

The main hallway of the school, between the principal's office and gymnasium, smelled the worst as more than 300 sneakers sat on three tables. One sneaker had mold growing all over it, another was stuffed with grass, and another smelled like dead fish.

"Because of the condition of the sneakers, we didn't want to risk the health of our judges," said fourth-grade teacher Raena Sidbeck.

The judges, Ashtabula Area City Schools Superintendent William Licate, Ashtabula City Manager Tony Cantagallo and Columbus Junior High School vice principal Jack Moradetz, were provided with rubber gloves, surgical gowns and masks.

Dressed like surgeons, the three men then had the tough task of choosing the worse-stinking sneakers: first, second and third places. Trophies were presented to the winners. Sixth-grader Jordan Manning took first, fourth-grader Logan Updike took second, and kindergartner Joey Johnson took third place.

Sixth-grade student Marissa David also received a prize for raising the most money. Marissa raised more than $362 and got a Lakeside gift tote with Lakeside items inside. To participate, students had to pay a $3 entry fee and collect money from sponsors.

"I didn't know sneakers could get that dirty and still be wearable," Cantagallo said after the judging. "It was great fun, and the kids are terrific."

Licate was impressed with the amount of money the students raised: more than $4,600 in two weeks.

"There is a lot of creativity on those tables," Licate said of the sneakers.

The contest was the school's way of raising money for new athletic uniforms for Lakeside Junior High School, Sidbeck said. Next school year, Columbus and West junior high schools will consolidate and move to the old Lakeside High School on West 44th Street.

Moradetz also was impressed with the amount of money raised by the student body. It will cost about $8,000 for the new uniforms, he said.

"This is a good start," he said. "It's more than I ever imagined."

The idea for the contest came from a book "Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers" the fourth-graders were reading, Sidbeck said. Fourth-grade students then went from classroom to classroom, reading the book and encouraging the student body to participate.

Anyone interested in donating to the fund may do in care of Sylvia Atkinson, principal of Lakeside Junior High School.

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