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Students from Vicenza Middle High School pose for a photo outside the Torino Palasport Olimpico in Turin, Italy. Students, from left, are Derrik Arthur, Mary Kenney, Tim Sughrue, Steven Merlino, Jessica Boydston and Bruce Case.
Students from Vicenza Middle High School pose for a photo outside the Torino Palasport Olimpico in Turin, Italy. Students, from left, are Derrik Arthur, Mary Kenney, Tim Sughrue, Steven Merlino, Jessica Boydston and Bruce Case. (John Zaborek / Special to S&S)

While most Americans in Europe have taken in the 2006 Olympics through their TV screens, a bunch of Vicenza, Italy-based pupils, parents and teachers experienced the whole thing live this week.

About 150 kids, roughly half the pupils of the Vicenza Middle High School, crowded on to five buses and made a daylong trip to the Games in Turin, leaving just before 6 a.m. Tuesday and coming back just after midnight.

The Olympian field trip, which had been in the works for about a year, gave the pupils a chance to soak in the international feel of the Games, assistant principal Les Bryan said Wednesday.

“America is just one country among many,” Bryan said of the Olympic atmosphere. “There’s a lot of good learning that’s going on there.”

The pupils, accompanied by about 70 teachers and parents, took in a tour of Turin before watching a women’s hockey game. While the game didn’t feature the American team, it was still enjoyable, said Meghan Higgins, a senior at the school.

As the thus-far dominant women’s Canadian hockey team trounced their Swedish opposition, pupils painted their faces in Canadian red and white and waved the country’s flag in support, Higgins said.

“Most were draped in Canadian flags,” Bryan said. “They decided they were Canadian for a day.”

Eighth-grader Kyle Hinton said the hockey game was the best part, adding that he wasn’t sure if the Canadian team will eventually squash their American competition.

“I haven’t seen the American team play,” he said.

A few surprises dotted the trip as well, Bryan said. Pupils were able to meet five-time gold medalist speed skater Bonnie Blair, who talked to them and took questions.

The Vicenza crew also ran into the cast of the “Today” show.

“We saw Al (Roker) and everyone,” Higgins said.

By the end of the day, and with few hiccups in the plan, the pupils and their chaperones returned to Vicenza, happy to have taken part in the Olympic experience.

“I loved the trip,” Higgins said. “It was awesome.”

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