By Grace Jenkins
After an eleven-year hiatus, Manheim Township’s mascot has returned. This time around, the graduating Class of 2019 donated two lion costumes for the purpose of boosting morale. One suit will be reserved for the basketball season, while the other was used during the football season. All six of the individuals who auditioned are going to participate in order to ensure that Sir Streaks-A-Lot can attend as many games as possible.
“I was inspired to audition for my part as the school mascot because I wanted to give back. This school has given me an education, friends, and a safe place I can rely on. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try and give back to our community,” one of the mascots said.
All of the six mascots wish to remain anonymous because they don’t want their identities to interfere with the spirit of the mascot, according to Mrs. Schiffhauer, the Senior Class advisor overseeing auditions. Only one of the mascots chose to comment on their experiences thus far.
“They [Head Cheerleaders and Senior Class Representatives] wanted somebody who would be able to hype up the crowd, and they wanted someone who would be enthusiastic… If you’re going to represent the school as the mascot, you need to know what school spirit is,” Mrs. Schiffhauer said.
For the audition, the candidates watched YouTube videos about how to be a mascot before individually performing in front of the head cheerleaders and Senior Class representatives. A scenario would be given, and they would react accordingly to the personality they gave the mascot.
With the addition of the mascot, the Senior Class is expected to take care of and maintain the costume in order to pass it down to the upcoming graduating class in a satisfactory condition by paying a professional.
David Onda, a 2002 graduate, was the mascot for his entire high school experience. Similarly, Manheim Township experienced a period where the school lacked a mascot.
“When I was a freshman, the Lion was something the students tolerated or quietly dismissed. By the time I was a senior, and most everyone knew me as a person, students actually paid attention to me,” Onda said. Taking on the role of the mascot helped Onda find a sense of belonging. He moved to Manheim Township in fourth grade and never truly felt connected to his peers until he auditioned.
During his experience, Onda remembers his main challenge was getting into the costume. “There was no dressing room for me at football games—home or away. I dragged my green Adidas duffel bag into the single bathroom stall under the stands and changed there for every home game for four years. Away games were a different story. There were rarely bathrooms near the away stands, so I’d have to improvise by wearing shorts under my jeans and changing under the bleachers. If I did find a bathroom, I’d have to plan the fastest route from the bathroom to the field so I wouldn’t get jumped by opposing fans. By my senior year, I knew exactly where to change at each stadium, and the safest route to the field.”
Mapping the quickest routes to the field proved to be a crucial task for Onda. The Hempfield Knight, adorned solely in a smock and helmet, attempted to steal Onda’s Lion head. While Onda tried his best to resist the Knight’s attack, the Knight lifted Onda off the ground. Fortunately, Onda’s salvation came in the form of a cheerleader and a megaphone, which was used to promptly assault the Knight’s back. Upon realizing his endeavor was futile, the Knight retreated.
The name, Sir Streaks-A-Lot, was not fostered by the previous Senior class. It was during Onda’s junior year that the school publication Hi-Lite (predecessor to Blue Streak News Online) hosted a contest for names, and Sir Streaks-A-Lot was born. Onda wrote the sports column “Through the Lion’s Mouth” for Hi-Lite in which he provided insight of the games through the mascot’s perspective. Onda claims it was poorly written but gave him an outlet and a way to communicate his opinion with his peers while sharing his experiences.
Contrary to popular belief, Manheim Township has always been the Lions. The Blue Streaks was an adopted nickname after a sports reporter who came to a basketball game in 1946 described the speed of the males on the court as being like “blue streaks of lightning”. The Lion mascot will wear a Blue Streaks jersey in order to blend the past with the present.
Onda wore a jersey adorned with the aforementioned name, and he remembers peers would refer to him as Sir Streaks-A-Lot in the halls, signatures in the yearbook, and when he was out and about in the community.
“I also really, really loved making time to meet kids at every game. I watched babies grow into toddlers over four years. And every year, at every game, they’d come down from the stands with their parents to say hi,” Onda said. One of the current mascots also notes all the hugs and interactions with children.
Sir Streaks-A-Lot made appearances at homecoming bonfires, pep rallies, all boys’ varsity basketball home games and playoff games. Onda made an appearance at soccer games and girls’ varsity basketball.
Much of Onda’s success and memorable experiences were due to his transparency as the mascot. “It was never a secret. I don’t know how we would have kept it a secret. I knew being the mascot was not going to make me ‘cool’ by any means, but I never wanted to keep it a secret. I was proud of it,” Onda explained.