Tolentine water bottle challenge kicks into high gear – Bottoms Up!

The water bottle challenge in Tolentine Hall continues to excite the counselors and administrators whose offices are in the building, as well as a few friendly faces that take part.

Ben Franzone, Friar's Life Editor

All in friendly competition, the faculty members in Tolentine Hall have created the water bottle challenge, to see who can reach the 100th mark first on the water filling station.

“These water bottle filling stations were born from a social entrepreneurship project a couple years back, where a group had identified a challenge with the amount of plastics used on campus,” Mr. Sillup, Assistant Head of School for Academics said. 

“So when we came in here, I want to say it was the summer of 2020, I’d seen the water bottle station installed and was really excited, like oh wow this campus project has finally taken root, it was sort of eighteen months later,” Sillup continued.

These water bottle stations have been placed all throughout campus, in just about all of the buildings; in hopes of keeping the amount of plastic use to a minimum. 

“And then in just sort of the funniest way I hit [the] 100 [mark] and just put my name up as if it was some kind of big thing, like getting 100,” Sillup said. “And then when we hit 200, it was Mrs. Folan, then I hit 300 and all of a sudden we have this race to where it’s going to go. And (English Teacher and College Counselor) Mr. [Richard] Roper gets involved, anytime Mr. Roper gets involved, we’ve leveled it up.”

Roper, really enjoys this new experience and feels that it is a good way for the teachers to find a little silliness in their day to day life. 

“And it may superficially seem to be just a little bit of silliness, but we all need silliness. We all need to have those things that gives us a momentary break from the tension and the pressure, the day to day needs of us,” Roper said.

Multi-time water bottle champ Ms. Bethany DeWitt, a school counselor and assistant high school swim coach, is a very active member in the Water Bottle Challenge and is no stranger to winning.

“I do look forward to walking through that door to see what the number is, like I know it sounds a little bit funny but you know being competitive and just having a fun thing to do with my colleagues, has been a nice change of pace,” DeWitt said.

The entire competition is solely based on the honor system, but every once in a while a few funny quirks have arised. There has been a little bit of buzz over in Tolentine over one winner in particular. 

Mr. Connor Resch, Upper School Math Teacher, whose office happens not to be in Tolentine, got his way up on the leaderboard reaching the 1,100 mark over the virtual days of Thanksgiving break; drawing the attention of some of the other participants.

“I’ll give you one name, Mr. Resch,” Sillup said. “I wasn’t aware that he was linked into this game and then I come back over Thanksgiving and I see his name up there.”

“So I think, I think Mr. Resch is someone to look out for,” Sillup continued.

While Sillup seemed to welcome the new competition, there is another teacher that seems to feel a little bit differently about the situation.

“That Connor Resch guy, he was an interloper, I don’t know where he came from and how he was lucky enough to be there. He probably pitched a tent and was waiting,” Roper said. 

For Resch, there were a few mixed feelings about his win. As for DeWitt, both Sillup and Algeo, along with Roper were all in agreement that she is committed and is someone who gives them the most competition. 

“I would say of the biggest competitors would probably be Ms. DeWitt… I think those who have that real strong competitive fire, they’re willing to go the extra yard there in a good fun way,” Algeo said. 

“I think Ms. DeWitt is someone that has definitely been committed to hit a number.  Ms. DeWitt when she hit one I think [of] our first numbers, filled it, filled an entire bottle, drank the entire bottle, to then fill it up again,” Sillup said. 

Roper, whose office is right across the hall from DeWitts’ offers a clever insight into DeWitts success. 

“Ms. DeWitt drinks a lot of water, which is why she’s shown up so much because she’s disgustingly healthy and very athletic, and so she knows the power of drinking water,” Roper said. 

As for DeWitt herself, she feels willing to go that extra mile to get her name on the leaderboard and has been doing just that these past few months. 

“I found that I’ve been really close at like ninety-five, so I’ll fill up my bottle and then drink it, and then refill again,” DeWitt said. “One time I actually had to do that two times to get to that marker. And then from there, I wasn’t actually feeling that well, but I had the honor of reaching that,” she continued.

While they do not receive any type of reward or prize when someone reaches the 100th mark on the water filling machine, each winner gets a boat-load of bragging rights that no one can take away.

“There’s something about grabbing the marker and just writing your name up on the board,” DeWitt said. “So I hit, I hit 1000 [mark] recently, and then I had to put little stars next to my name just to kind of show everyone that I hit that marker.”

Sillup agrees that the bragging rights of getting your name on the wall is a pretty cool thing.

“It’s totally bragging rights it’s uh you know you talk with your colleagues and have some fun rasm a little bit hey I got here and then you’re right on to the next one,” Sillup said.

Along with the bragging rights, Algeo also makes a note of a new custom that has begun to take shape.

“So, what tends to happen is now, whoever gets on the board has their picture taken and it’s kind of dispersed and shared with the rest of the crew,” Algeo said.

Since the challenge began, the faculty members have been enjoying the event and have found it as a fun, new experience. 

“What’s fun is seeing some people come to the step up, like Mrs. Gordon was so excited that she was able to make the wall. We took a picture, we sent it to Mr Sillup, he was dying laughing,” Algeo said. 

With the challenge growing and more people joining in on the fun, Roper decided to add one more thing to the game, to jazz things up a bit. 

“Mr. Roper, who was so excited to get out there himself, but he also decided to take it to a new level, he created a banner. Now there’s a banner up there like you would see in a gym. That’s printed on paper but. So he wanted to help take us to the next level,” Algeo said.

As the challenge continues to excite, more and more people have gotten involved. 

“I’d say everyone though on this floor is learning how to get into it, even (School Counselor) Mrs. [Ann] Coia  said I’m gonna have to get a water bottle now so I can join in on the fun,” DeWitt says.

Even with all of the excitement of this game, Algeo doesn’t shy away from his competitive spirit and makes known his strong desire to keep at it. 

“It’s nice to find other people who are as competitive as I am,” Algeo said. “I’m not necessarily proud of this but sometimes I can get over competitive about things. [When I was younger] … I just was a terrible loser. So that competitive streak doesn’t really ever go away,” he continued.

Most of the teachers are in agreement that this challenge has really offered them a different light. With the Coronavirus upending so much of everyday life, the teachers feel that this experience gives them something else to think about and something to look forward to. 

“I do look forward to walking through that door to see what the number is,” DeWitt said. “I know it sounds a little bit funny but you know being competitive and just having a fun thing to kind of do with my colleagues, has been nice change of pace,” she said.

“It’s just like the most random thing that started but it’s been fun,” DeWitt continued. 

Sillup offers a similar sentiment as to how this challenge has shed a light on his day to day life. 

“This year is tough because you have to really search for those energy, giving experiences,” Sillup notes. “I think, in searching for those little energy giving experiences. This is one that feels very light, it’s very fun. It’s doable,” Sillup continues. 

Sillup adds, “You don’t do anything more than bring your water bottle; it’s something you do every day anyway. And it just creates a fun conversation that doesn’t get sort of bogged down by all these other things that have to be thought about.”

Algeo agrees with both of his colleges in that this challenge has given them a sense of fun and a sense of excitement. He agrees that this game has been a light spot in his life. 

“And something, finding something like this, even though it’s silly and small can have such a nice effect, in terms of smiling, having fun, sharing jokes and stories can help alleviate some of that and provide some areas of connectivity,” Algeo explains. 

As for Roper, he says that those who have had him in class know about his “silliness” during his classes, and he relates those experiences to this one in particular. 

Roper connects this challenge to two different parts of films: the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the 2004 version of Finding Neverland.

“In Finding Neverland, Johnny Depp’s character encourages [Peter] to write and use his creativity… and he writes a little play and one of the lines is him saying “It’s all just a bunch of silliness, really,” Roper explained. 

Roper finds the silliness in Finding Neverland to the easygoing style of the Water Bottle Challenge. Roper takes it a step further however, adding a bit from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

“In Willy Wonka, one of the parents turns to Willy Wonka says this is a lot of nonsense, but his reaction to that is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest man,” Roper stated. He continues with “Wisdom is knowing when you need to be a little silly. I’m silly in class, you know, at least ten times.”

With everything that is going on in the world today, these teachers have found something that keeps their mind off of the really serious topics that face them each day. As silly as the Water Bottle Challenge may seem, it offers these teachers something to look forward to.

Roper ends with, “It’s important to understand that a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest man.”