BYFIELD — School pride is climbing at Triton Regional High School these days, thanks to a new mascot that brings personality and plenty of spirit to the job.
“The Viking has become the legend,” Triton Regional High School athletic director Sean McInnis said recently.
McInnis started his job as athletic director over the summer and soon met with the school’s adjustment counselor and Triton alumna Rebecca Fish to see how they could get their students more engaged with their sports teams and, indeed, their school.
“There is pride when you put on that uniform,” McInnis said. “I mean, you look at the colleges and that’s one of the biggest things: their mascot. We felt that would be important here, especially for the community engagement and games and everything. It’s the identity of the school.”
In years past, whoever fit into the suit and was available, be it student, teacher or random passer-by, got the job. But McInnis and Fish wanted more than that this time around — they wanted commitment.
“What you need is someone who is passionate about it,” McInnis said. “Someone who takes it serious.”
The search began and many students simply laughed in response. Then, one day, “The Viking” emerged.
The Viking’s true identity is shrouded in mystery and has become the Byfield school’s greatest guessing game this academic year. A mild-mannered high school student by day who dons an oversized head and helmet by night, The Viking has suddenly found him/herself protecting a secret identity.
“I’ve never really been into school pride, until this year,” The Viking said. “It’s my senior year and I felt like I should do something. I never really did anything in high school that was for the school, so I figured it’s my time to stand up and do something.”
While the student’s family knows their child’s other identity — after all, The Viking sometimes needs a ride — for the most part, his or her fellow students have no idea who plays the role of their beloved mascot.
According to McInnis, school pride has increased since he or she took over the costume.
“When you see the students, K-12, or even the preschool students who come up for games and see that mascot, it’s great,” he said. “I have seen he or she holding babies and families of graduates who want a picture with the mascot. That’s what it’s about. This is about becoming a community. We are three Class A communities and we want to become one outstanding program here. The Viking has helped us do that.”
Being hidden under a costume can also afford a strange freedom and change in personality.
“I would say that, school-spirit wise, it gives me pep in my step,” said The Viking. “It gives me energy. Once I put (the costume) on, I feel like I am in a different world. People don’t view me as who they would see of me as a person.”
“What I hope is that he or she has inspired someone else,” McInnis said. “So when this person graduates, they step right into it.”
As the new year rolls around, The Viking has only a few more months left to enjoy the anonymous glory, but the memories should last quite a while.
“Being able to open my yearbook and say, ‘That’s me. I was The Viking that day.’ “I feel like it will make me happy when I am older.”