Halfway through this final week of the USA Today "Most Unique High School Mascot" contest, things were looking grim for Kingswood Oxford's Wyvern. Ok, things were dismal. Those "Orphans" from Centralia, IL came out of the gate, fast, and began racking up votes at a shocking pace. Our students and teachers were still away on spring break, and many of the rest of our voters had numb fingers and glazed eyes. We'd been at this for three weeks already, winning the state and regional rounds, and voter fatigue had definitely set in.
Despite a seven-hour "vote-a-thon" in our dining hall on March 22, we were mired in a (distant) fifth place by the weekend. But Wyverns do not give up without a fight! Not after we'd come this far -- and especially because, deep down, we knew we really DID have the most unique and best mascot in the country.
So we took some extraordinary measures. On Monday, we went to The Today Show. We begged Al Roker and crew for votes. We went back to our social media sites and tried to light a fire under the folks who had been there for us for so many days, so many clicks.
But it wasn't until Tuesday, during a school assembly, that the tide began to change. KO Spanish teacher Juan Martinez issued a challenge to the entire school community: "Aim for the podium," he said, "let's aim for third place, because when you come in 4th at the Olympics, you go home with nothing, but when you come in 3rd, you're on the podium!"
Late last night, the podium still looked out of reach, as we were hovering at 600K-700K votes and moving up in only small increments. We had inched up to 4th place, but it still seemed impossible that we could get to third.
Overnight, something magical happened. Young alums re-mobilized on Facebook. Stalwart advocates stayed up until the wee hours, clicking. West Coast alums promised to hold down the fort while the East Coast people got some sleep. Head of School Dennis Bisgaard and his wife, Monica, clicked and clicked
Slowly, steadily, all day long, the third-place finish seemed achievable. That is, until 2:10pm -- when the fire alarm went off for a fire drill! The KO community spilled out of all the buildings onto the fields -- with the savviest bringing their phones along, so they could vote vote vote.
It was deja vu during the last 15 minutes of this contest. It was as close and as stressful as the last 15 minutes of the regional contest had been (both times). We kept trading places with the Sugarbeeters from MT. And even when it was over, we weren't sure how it ended. At 3pm, we held our collective breath, waiting for the final vote tally to appear.
Then, there it was: 1,783,538 votes. A third-place finish! We are amazed, delighted, and so so proud of our Wyvern Nation. We now officially have the third most unique mascot in the entire country, and USA Today will soon send us a banner to prove it.
And though we will display the banner with pride, we are actually far more proud of the intangible things that have come out of this experience: the remarkable energy, passion, and "can do" spirit that has bubbled up and out of Wyverns worldwide -- from alums of all ages, alumni parents, current parents and students, grandparents. The contest demonstrated the power of social media, of course, but also its invaluable role in bringing thousands of people together in a virtual reunion that, quite simply, puts a smile on everyone's face and makes them proud to say "that's my school!"