On the grassy field outside the Pohl gymnasium on Mississippi University for Women’s campus Friday, a group of teenagers encircled a handful of their peers. The teenage “gladiators” in the center of the ring each had a brightly colored balloon tied around one ankle and were frantically beating their opponents with equally brightly colored pool noodles, all as their peers cheered them on in English — and Latin (this is an excerpt of a story that appeared in the Commercial Dispatch. Click here to read more

The object of the melee was to pop each other’s balloons, so it probably didn’t resemble the gladiatorial battles of ancient Rome 2,000 years ago. But at least Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science senior Rebecca Chen, who tied for first in the women’s gladiatorial contest, didn’t have to face a Roman emperor’s thumbs down. 

“I didn’t think I’d get that far, because all the girls looked really intimidating, but it feels really great,” Chen said. 

It was the fourth statewide Latin convention MSMS students have attended in as many years and the first they have hosted. MSMS Latin teacher Lori Pierce helped organize the event for 10 school groups totaling more than 200 students studying Latin or classics. Set up by the Mississippi Junior Classical League, the event allows students to compete in various athletic, academic and artistic events, each with a Latin or Roman history component.