Half an hour into St. Simons Elementary’s annual hula hoop contest on Thursday, about 40 students remained.

Most had a look of focus and determination, and each one had the same goal — to be the last one to drop their hula hoop.

“It’s just whoever can hula hoop the longest,” said Kim Richardson, the physical education teacher at St. Simons Elementary and organizer of the event. “We spread it out by grade level, and we’re trying to have a winner at every grade level.”

The competition began promptly after school with around 130 students, holding hula hoops of varying colors and sizes, spread out over the school’s outdoor basketball court.

Their parents were there to cheer them on from the sidelines. The winners would earn school fame, but Richardson said there was an underlying, more important purpose behind the contest. The students were also learning how fun it can be to exercise.

“It’s just for fun and to promote physical activity,” Richardson said. “It’s having fun while getting some exercise.”

Cara Wommack, the mother of two St. Simons Elementary students, said her children had been looking forward to the contest all year.

“I think anytime they’re outside being active is always a good thing, and it shows how long they can do it if they wanted to it,” she said. “And hula hooping is more fun than, say, running.”

Katy Ginn, the school’s principal, said the event offered a fun contest that could involve everyone.

“This is the second year we’ve done it, and the children love it,” Ginn said. “And I think it’s just a great way to get families out here too, so that they’re involved in the physical fitness program.”

Even 30 minutes in to the competition, however, Richardson knew they wouldn’t be going home soon.

“Last year, we had three girls go for three hours,” she said. “And at three hours I said, ‘You know what, three-way tie.’”