A clear but slightly chilly evening at the upper school campus was the setting for the 2013 Harker Homecoming, highlighted by a tense face-off between the varsity football teams of Harker and Lynbrook High School at Davis Field.
Attendees had plenty of fun both before and during the game, with tailgate areas serving many varieties of snacks and drinks to the patrons. Meanwhile Mrs. Carley’s Café served savory barbecue and upper school students sold hot pizza by the slice. Harker journalism students sold programs they had made to raise money to pay for equipment and publishing costs. A favorite attraction during the evening was a taped-off area where attendees could take turns bashing a car, spray-painted with the graduation years of the upper school classes, with a sledgehammer or baseball bat.
Prior to the start of the game, Harker performing arts groups kept the attendees entertained. After a rousing performance by the upper school’s varsity dance squad, the lower school’s junior cheer squad received an enthusiastic ovation for their spirited and well-executed routine, and the crowd was equally receptive for the Eaglets flyby, the longstanding homecoming tradition, directed by Gail Palmer. Dressed in their eagle costumes and dancing to the appropriately familiar strains of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” the grade 2 performers were, as always, a highlight of the pre-game festivities.
Out on Rosenthal Field, younger children had a blast playing in no fewer than three inflatable structures: a bounce house, a large slide and an elaborate play house. Others made their own fun by tossing a football or playing other schoolyard games.
Akshaya Premkumar, grade 9, enjoyed homecoming for the opportunity to bond with friends. She was also cheering hard for an Eagle win. “I like cheering. I’m a very spirited person!” she said. Her friend Caitlin Benge, also grade 9, was enjoying her 10th homecoming since kindergarten. “My favorite part is the tug of war,” she said.
Harker alumni, including several Palo Alto Military Academy graduates, were out in force to support their alma mater and reminisce with old friends and teachers. The special alumni area was busy for the entire event with returning graduates, faculty and current students enjoying food and good company.
“There’s always good food and good conversation,” Steven Brimm ’02 said of Harker community events such as homecoming. Although it had been years since he had visited Harker, he said, he enjoyed seeing his former classmates and teachers.
Ed Williams ’02 said “the friends” were what brought him to this year’s homecoming. “Here’s one right here!” he exclaimed, as he reunited with his former advisor John Hawley, the upper school Latin teacher.
During halftime, Head of School Chris Nikoloff took time to recognize the three alumni who received awards at Harker’s Alumni Day event in June. Ken Hunt ’79 received the Distinguish Alumni Award “for his love of learning and his ability to lead, whether in a Fortune 200 or smaller company,” Nikoloff said. Community Service Award winner Tevis Howard ’88 was recognized for his efforts to help the people of Kenya. Finally, Mark Muller ’75, recipient of the Phyllis Carley Award, was honored for his dedication to and positive impact on the Harker community.
Just before kickoff, vocal groups from all three campuses gathered to sing stirring renditions of “The Harker School Song” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” directed by Susan Nace.
Halftime entertainment began with a performance by Harker’s cheer squad, who impressed the crowd with a complex routine. The traditions continued with the conclusion of this year’s tug of war competition, as the classes of 2013 and 2014 took to the center of Davis Field. The seniors took home this year’s tug of war trophy after a well-earned victory.
As the third quarter approached, this year’s homecoming court was brought onto the field, riding golf carts driven by their advisors. Performing arts teacher Jeffrey Draper then revealed Maverick McNealy and Akarsha Gulukota, both grade 12, as this year’s homecoming king and queen.
The football team then took the field in spectacular fashion by bursting through a massive paper sign to begin the second half. Although the Eagles lost the hard-fought contest 39-45, it was nevertheless a memorable event for all in attendance that surely already has the Harker community eager for next year.