Think school spirit is dead? Maybe it did appear to wane for a while. Just 20 years ago there was little for teens to do for recreation not involving school. Without Facebook or texting, flirting had to take place face to face. Those more mature readers will recall the pulse that ran through their school on game days. Not wearing the school colors was a fashion faux pas, and anyone who was anybody went to the game.
School spirit, say some students, is back in style. Perhaps we can chalk up its resurgence to popular shows about high school such as Glee.
Yes, there’ll always be those in the student body who believe pep rallies, painting one’s body the school colors and cheering until you’ve broken vocal cords is just for jocks. But for many students, there’s still no better motivator to firing up school support than when age-old rivals – such as Memorial and Stratford high schools – are set to play.
Memorial High School
With no shortage of organizations to ensure Mustang spirit endures, red and white pride is alive and well. This school year, more than 60 Markettes will bring a sea of red glam to the field and bleachers. Once a marching corps where girls mostly wore military-style outfits, white gloves and large hats emblazoned with the letter M, the Markettes have evolved from a drill to a dance team.
“The girls are much better dancers now than we were,” says Melanie Elliott, whose daughter, Samantha Scioneaux, will be a lieutenant this year. Melanie, who was a Markette in the early 1970s, compares her routines of marching in diamond or pinwheel formation with the band to the complex moves Samantha and her team currently perform.
One fond memory from Melanie’s Markette years is when her team and Memorial’s marching band participated in the 1973 Inaugural Parade for Richard Nixon. Melanie still has photos to prove she was there in the front row alongside the school’s banner.
“I don’t think I’d have made the team today,” she jokes. “It’s now a year-round commitment, between summer practice, football season, competition season and Spring Show, where the girls combine athleticism with artistry.”
Belonging to her school’s dance team was written in Samantha’s destiny. When the Markettes held yearly junior drill team clinics for fundraising, she attended from the time she was in the first grade. Glad she is now part of the team, she says game days are her favorite. “It’s a marathon of spirit.”
Game days at Memorial are electric. The Markettes sell mums, and the color red abounds. Maddie Roeder, who just graduated and is heading to The University of Texas at Austin this fall, had such a blast as a Memorial High School cheerleader, she’s considering trying out for her college team.
Maddie describes the scene at pep rallies. “The cheerleaders are doing their cheers. The Markettes do their dance. The Wranglers, made up of about five or six guys, bring out the mascot, a huge plastic white Mustang mounted on a red platform. One of them pulls the horse, swinging his lasso, and one of the football players gets to ride it.”
One of last year’s Wranglers, Doug Doyle, will divulge only that the Mustang is stored in a secret location to avoid its theft by opposing schools. Doug, who’ll be a freshman at Texas Tech University this year, says the rivalries are so much fun it was well worth staying up until 2 a.m. to defend the horse. Each year, the Wranglers choose their outfit. Doug’s group chose red, long-sleeved, pearl-snap shirts, lasso, cowboy hats, boots and matching belt buckles.
John Snelling and four of his friends will be this year’s defenders in charge of safely transporting the horse to games. They hope to look equally dapper in red and white striped button-down shirts, light blue Wrangler jeans and a white cowboy hat.
“I am looking forward to being a part of something at my school,” he says, explaining how after playing baseball and football his first two years at Memorial, he took a hiatus his junior year, and is ready to get back into the swing of things.
School spirit isn’t present only for football season. “Last year, we upped the ante to get all grades involved,” cheerleader Maddie says. One way to keep the spirit fires burning in springtime is with Junior Bash, when the junior class holds weeklong festivities to raise money for prom.
“The most popular event is the Mr. Legs Contest. It’s funny to watch these guys walk in heels,” she says. Last year’s winner, Jonathan Hardin, swallowed his pride and went along with dressing up as “the girl next door.”
“It’s like a beauty pageant. I had to walk down the aisle to a Brittany Spears song, and to prove it, I now have a sash and crown,” he says.
Stratford High School
Just follow the green and white ribbons, and you’ll find the way to the stadium. “During football playoffs, Student Council felt we should bring green and white over into Katy’s red and white territory. Green and white ribbons were tied around poles on the side of the road to sport our school’s colors around our community and pump people up for the games,” says Stratford varsity cheerleader Laura Tendall.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit when those same ribbons are streaming from every car antenna in the student parking lot.
Laura says, “Stratford is a very unique and eclectic place. There is something for everyone, and each activity is supported by the school and thus the student body.”
Sporting events ranging from football to swimming draw crowds, and the school’s Senior Men, the boys’ spirit club, is always decked in green. You can spot them in the crowd with their painted faces, and if you can’t see them, you can sure hear them as they beat a tribal drum and yell, “Can I get a ‘Go Stratford?’”
Senior John Karna can’t wait for the football season to start. “We’re there to pump everyone up,” he says of the Senior Men’s club. “Someone last year brought a drum to every game, and I hope I’ll be the one to bring it this year. I’d be honored to carry on the tradition.”
To keep the Spartan spirit alive in the spring, the Senior Men’s club sponsors a Mr. SHS Contest to peg the ultimate senior man.
The proud winner of last year’s contest is recent graduate Gordon Thal, who’s soon on his way to St. Edward’s University. Gordon learned two routines from the cheerleaders for the talent portion and spruced up the swimsuit division with a dinosaur mask, goggles and flippers that resembled claws. “Together with the title, I received a Best Buy certificate and red roses,” says Gordon.
Whether or not residents have kids who go to Stratford, they know a game is pending just by driving around the neighborhood. The senior girls’ spirit group, Tri Theta, paints huge signs, hanging their words of encouragement outside football players’ homes.
“Pep rallies are a big part of what makes up Stratford’s spirit,” says cheerleader Laura. “Not only do we have them for football, but also for baseball, softball, basketball and swimming.”
Rallies are made all the merrier with the help of the Spartanaires, Stratford’s dance team. A favorite that gets the crowd going is their kick line, which culminates in a jump split.
This year’s team colonel, senior Jane Swanson, says the team has changed since its formation in the 1970s. “We compete throughout the year with other schools, and it’s a competitive dance program now,” she explains. Jane, who has trained in dance since a young age, has been a Spartanaire since her freshman year.
Tanglewood-area resident Cathy Frank, who grew up in the Memorial area, remembers trying out for the Westchester Rangerettes in 1972. “Stratford was not yet established, but I remember when they told us that we had the opportunity to go to this new school and forge the traditions, we were very excited. Stratford’s physical campus opened in March 1973, and we worked so hard that summer to get ready for the upcoming season.”
Cathy’s uniform of the more-traditional white and green drill team attire with hats and boots has since been replaced with glittery modern-dance attire.
It’s still easy to spot Stratford’s side of the field. With 64 girls in green and gold, white Keds tennis shoes and sequined hair bows doing a routine, there’s no denying that Stratford High School is in the house.