At MIHS, school spirit reigns

When it comes to athletic school spirit, Mercer Island High School trumps Title IX with a royal flush. Cheerleaders, flag dudes, the high school band, drill team, the Snail Pound, the Islander Girls — these spirited students can be found at one sporting event or another, oftentimes as one unified crowd of maroon and white. They don’t ignore the girls sports. They make a point to attend all events; whether a rainy cross country race in a muddy park or the Homecoming football game. At Mercer Island High School, school spirit reigns.

“Compared with other high schools, the amount of spirit is beyond measure at MIHS,” said senior flag dude Eddie Bond. “It’s a hugely important deal at the high school.”

The flag dudes, a spirited foursome of energetic MIHS flag-wielders, make their boisterous presence at every sporting event possible. A tradition begun in 1991, the flag dudes are elected each year by their predecessors for their undying school spirit and entertaining personalities.

Along with the school cheerleaders, drill team and band, the flag dudes rally the crowds. They perform on the sidelines and during game breaks. They hang over the bleachers of Mary Wayte Pool and zig-zag across soccer fields.

“We definitely try to go to every athletic event regardless of who it is or what it is,” Bond said. “I don’t see any distinction between girls games and guys games.”

MIHS swim coach Jeff Lowell agrees.

“We’ve always had strong support at [swim and dive meets], along with all the other girls and boys sports,” he said. “It’s just not an issue at the high school.”

The evidence is not only anecdotal. The 2008 Title IX Compliance Review showed that although MIHS fell short in several areas, school spirit was not one of them.

“Among the sports with similar girls and boys teams ... all received the same type of support,” the compliance review states. “Overall, the cheerleaders were assigned to attend 32 girls’ regular season events and 29 boys’ regular season events [in 2007-08].”

The report goes on to mention the flag dudes and their conscious efforts “to generate spirit and support” for all sporting events, as well as the MIHS band, which — though “not a pep-squad” — also serves as a “successful means of promoting spirit.”

Yet “Islander pride” is not limited to organized clubs. High school students have taken school spirit into their own hands.

Led by the Islander Girls and the Snail Pound, two self-organized spirit groups, students gather on the bleachers of weekend games, boisterously cheering, singing and waving their school colors for all to see. Among them stand supportive parents, siblings, teachers and staff. Sure, this crowd may be smaller at track meets than at basketball games, but the fact is, the crowd is there. And so are the flags. The cheering. The expectant eyes. The triumphant smiles. And this is spirit.

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