This article originally appeared in the winter 2009 Harker Quarterly.
Homecoming 2009 blended old and new traditions on a crisp fall evening Nov. 13. Held for the first time on campus, but incorporating many old traditions, homecoming at Davis Field provided a home field advantage for both players and fans.
Early in the evening, K-Gr. 12 students, alumni, staff, parents and friends enjoyed the junior varsity game despite the 18-9 loss; tailgate parties and the traditional pre-game and half-time entertainment got the crowd excited and ready to watch the big game. Fan favorites – the class tug-of-wars, the Eaglets’ performance and the homecoming court – were accompanied by the addition of a Bounce Zone with slide and bounce house, on adjacent, well-lit Rosenthal Field.
Although Davis Field has been open for three years, the logistics of holding homecoming on campus have been daunting. Previous homecoming events were held at PAL stadium and at Foothill College. This year, through the tireless efforts of staff and administration, parking, seating and entertainment were all organized to fit the smaller venue. Upper school students vacated their parking spaces in good order to make room for grade-level and alumni tailgates, as well as the traditional team tailgate at Christine and John Davis’ (Cole, Gr. 12) motor home. The arrangement created a safe zone where parents and students could come and go freely throughout the game.
One of the more obvious advantages to having the event on campus was having executive chef Steve Martin’s tasty food right to hand. To accommodate the crowd of over 1,200, additional bleacher seating was brought in, shuttles ran to the Blackford parking lot, and the homecoming court traveled green, arriving via pedicabs instead of the traditional convertibles. Chris Daren, upper school activities and yearbook/newspaper advisor, organized an entertaining week of spirit events for the Saratoga students as well as the homecoming court event.
One of the refinements of the home field location was the above-mentioned Bounce Zone, supervised by ever-vigilant BEST staff, heavily used by an enthusiastic crowd of younger Eagles until close to the end of the game.
This year, with a real “home coming,” the crowd was energized. Before the varsity game, attendees were treated to an impressive routine by the varsity Dance Troupe, directed by Laura Rae, and an enthusiastic performance by the lower school’s junior cheerleaders, instructed by Melinda Beason. Prior to kickoff, vocal groups from all three campuses sang both the Harker anthem and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” directed by upper school music teacher Catherine Snider.
The first half was a hard-fought struggle, with coach Karriem Stinson’s Eagles behind 12-7 when the halftime whistle blew. Throughout the first half of the game, the junior cheerleaders from Bucknall, with the upper school cheerleaders, coached by Chris King, led the crowd in rousing cheers in support of the gridiron gladiators on the emerald field below.
During halftime, the finals of the upper school tug-of-war contest took place, with seniors maintaining the status quo by taking first over the juniors. More halftime entertainment was provided by the cheerleaders, who put on an acrobatic display of school spirit.
Irresistibly cute, the Gr. 1-2 Eaglets, instructed by lower school dance teacher Gail Palmer, performed their annual dance, this year held in the home grandstand, and, shortly afterward, the 2009 homecoming court arrived on the field via carriages pedaled by class deans. Seniors Kevin Fu (playing running back and defensive end, thus in his football uniform) and Mahum Jamal were crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Other members of the court included freshmen Rahul Nalamasu and Maya Sathaye, sophomores Aaron Bisla and Laura Yau, juniors Nirjhar Mundkur and Brianna Tran, as well as seniors Thomas Enzminger, Valerie Hwa, Arjun Mody and Jackie Ho. In another long-established tradition, faculty cheerleaders rallied the crowd prior to the start of the second half.
As in previous years, the crowd was entertained throughout the game by the sounds of the upper school’s Jazz Band, led by Chris Florio. In the stands and on the field, students and players reveled in the first on-campus homecoming. “It just felt right being on Davis Field: it’s where we have all of our spirit events and football games and class meetings and such,” said Danielle Buis, Gr. 12. “So much activity happens on Davis Field, so it’s just always going to bring back those good memories of high school and all the things we did together. We have a lot of spirit and pride in what we do at the high school and homecoming is just our way to show it off to the other campuses.”
Football player Gautam Krishnamurthi, Gr. 11, playing wide receiver and cornerback, concurred: “The fact that it was ‘home’-coming was really defined by the atmosphere that was there at this last game because of the proximity of the fans as well as because it was where we practice and play every day.” Krishnamurthi also liked the fact that the game was held after the regular season and that the opponent, Berean Christian, provided a challenge, which made the game exciting to watch.
Even the younger students enjoyed the home field event. Jithin Vellian, Gr. 8, has attended homecoming games since he was in the lower school. Although he played football with his friends during the game, which is what he says he has done every year, he felt that having the game at the Saratoga campus made it special. “I like how homecoming was at the school itself, instead of some random place. It was nice to have it somewhere I’ve been before.” Victor Shin, Gr. 4, liked the game being at home. Shin explained, “I really liked the food and being with my friends, but I didn’t like that we lost.”
The crowd was thoroughly fired up for the second half and both teams showed great competitive spirit. The game was announced throughout by our own Greg Lawson, assistant head of school for student affairs. Although Harker eventually lost the grueling contest 25-13, Homecoming 2009 allowed our ever-growing athletic department to show off one of the many upper school sports, as well as our impressive facilities.
Since its inception, the athletic department has been steadily growing, adding sports and facilities and training increasingly talented athletes. In 2005-06, approximately 50 percent of the upper school student body played after- school sports; now, 65-70 percent compete in at least one sport.
Currently, 14 former Harker students are playing athletics at the college level, in swimming, gymnastics, tennis, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball and diving. Schools include Penn State, Northeastern, Cornell and Villanova as well as West Coast schools University of Puget Sound, UC Berkeley, Santa Clara University, Pepperdine and San Jose State University. Current seniors Cole Davis, Arthi Padmanabhan, Michael Clifford and Greg Plauck all are planning to play college athletics as well. Davis has already been accepted to swim at Stanford, and Plauck will be playing baseball at Santa Clara next year.
Harker teams have won an impressive list of titles and championships, including 14 league titles, one Nor-Cal championship, over 35 section scholastic championships, and three state scholastic titles since Dan Molin took over as athletic director in 2005. Already this year, Harker has had two more firsts: the football team qualified for playoffs for the first time in school history, and the girls tennis team made it to the CCS quarterfinals.
“I’m continually amazed at and inspired by what Harker student-athletes accomplish,” said Molin. “They always rise to the occasion and go beyond our expectations on the court, field or pool.”
Joe Rosenthal, executive director of advancment, added, “Looking to the future, there have been and continue to be meetings to rally support for a new gym building to be built at the same time as the planned performing arts center.”
Homecoming at Davis Field this year was just another step in bringing our athletic department to a higher level, and we look forward to the continued growth of Harker sports.