With activities beginning weeks prior to the main event, this year’s Homecoming on Nov. 12 was exciting and action-packed. As a close-knit K-12 community, Harker has a Homecoming celebration like no other. Students and faculty on all three campuses participated in spirit activities and competitions the week before the game, ensuring a fever pitch of excitement by game time.
Lower school students had dress-up days, culminating in green-and-white day on the Friday before the game, when the football players and cheerleaders visited the lower school for a huge rally.
Middle school students had costume and spirit competitions to get students excited. An assembly featuring upper school students helped to kick off Homecoming week.
At the upper school, spirit week included the traditional campus decorations, dress-up days and events at the pool. Each class competed to gain points by showing off their spirit, dressing up and helping decorate the campus according to this year’s theme of “imaginary places.” The freshmen chose the Land of Oz; sophomores, Mount Olympus; juniors, Treasure Island; and seniors, Hogwarts, from the “Harry Potter” series.
In preparation for game day, additional bleachers were erected to accommodate the crowd, public address equipment was checked and re-checked, placement for observers and the many participants on and near the field – alumni, cheerleaders, Eaglets, the Harker Jazz Band – was allocated. Students, faculty and staff vacated the parking lot right after classes ended, and tailgaters moved in alongside John and Christine Davis’ (Cole ’10) motor home to set up for the pre-game festivities.
A large and enthusiastic crowd of students, parents, staff and friends enjoyed the junior varsity game despite the 34-26 loss. Tailgate parties and traditional pre-game events, including a performance by the upper school Varsity Dance Troupe, the singing of the Harker anthem and national anthem by all combined choirs, and the upper school’s spirit competition tug-of-war semifinals, warmed up the crowd for the varsity game.
Tailgate parties allowed special groups like alumni, seniors and Eagle Buddies (see page 18) to congregate during the lulls in the on-field action. Joe Connolly, lower school dean of students, was proud of one activity that was new this year. As a part of the new Eagle Buddies program, “The third grade students were invited to a combined tailgate with their tenth grade buddy families,” said Connolly. This event, sure to become tradition, gave the Harker community yet another way to get closer together. Third grader Matthew Jin said his two favorite parts of Homecoming were, “going to the jump house and the slide and seeing my tenth grade buddy.”
Another popular spot was the alumni pavilion set up by Christina Yan, director of alumni relations. The alumni area included snacks as well as reserved bleacher seating. A wide range of alumni, from recent graduates to those who brought families of their own to the game, attended.
Like last year, the BEST staff from Bucknall and Blackford once again oversaw the bounce house and bounce slide on Rosenthal Field, giving the young and the young-at-heart alike some physical activity.
The Harker Jazz Band, directed by Chris Florio, played throughout the evening, using songs like “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath to pump up the crowd. The Varsity Dance Troupe, directed by Laura Rae, were transformed into Mad Hatters from the “Alice in Wonderland” movie during their pregame dance routine while the Eaglets and the junior cheerleaders joined the varsity cheer squad in rousing the fans throughout the game.
The upper school class spirit competitions continued with the pre-game tug-of-war. The seniors defeated the sophomores, and the juniors beat the freshmen, setting the stage for a showdown between the two oldest classes at halftime.
Amid the excitement, bright lights and fun, the Eagle football team prepared to face league opponent Valley Christian-Dublin. The home team came into the game missing several key starters who were sidelined by injuries. Nevertheless, the team hoped to add one more win to their 7-2 season, already a school record.
Game time under the Davis Field lights: Harker won the toss and Valley Christian took the kickoff. On their first play, Valley Christian ran for their first touchdown, adding two more touchdowns before the end of the first quarter. Harker senior Chris McCallaCreary scored, and classmate Greg Cox ran in the two-point conversion to put Harker on the board, but that was the end of Harker’s offensive success. Though the Eagles ended up losing the game, the boys put on a good show and can hold their heads high after their record-breaking season.
Speaking about the whole season, head coach Karriem Stinson said, “I am really proud of what this team has done. They are the tightest group I’ve ever been around, and I’m really proud to have coached them.”
His remarks were echoed by Jason Mendel, grade 12, who said that he “enjoyed the team’s 6-0 start and bonding with his teammates the most.”
Halftime brought the traditional presentation of the Homecoming court: freshmen Andrew Wang and Claudia Tischler; sophomores Rohit Agarwal and Tiphaine Delepine; juniors Jason Kuan and German exchange student Julia Lambertz; and seniors Amanda King, Brianna Tran, Ben Tien and Santosh Swaminathan. Seniors Greg Cox and Anisha Agarwal were crowned king and queen.
Of his time with the court Swaminathan remarked that his favorite experience came before the Homecoming dance. “I really enjoyed our dinner at Left Bank and the banana split at Ben and Jerry’s afterwards. Life is good when you’re a prince.”
In the tug-of-war finals, the juniors squared off against the seniors in what was to be a battle of epic proportions. While the juniors were declared the winners at the time, controversy later arose about the number of students on the juniors’ end of the rope and, at press time, negotiations on how to resolve the winner were continuing!
“Overall, school spirit was amazing!” said Kerry Enzensperger, student activities coordinator. “Classes took it upon themselves to decorate Shah, Dobbins and Main Hall; I would like to thank the class spirit officers for all their hard work!”
Vladimir Sepetov, grade 12, felt the same, saying, “Homecoming was awesome this year … I think there was good school spirit overall. Everyone really brought their A-game.”
Ultimately, Homecoming is about coming together as a community and celebrating the school. While the game may not have turned out as we would have liked (56-8 for Valley Christian), the whole community had a great time together and is surely looking forward to next year!