Hope, Heartbreak, and Redemption: 2018’s Journey to Spirit Week Triumph

Since elementary school, the senior Class of 2018 has been characterized by their teachers and peers as a boisterous, energetic, sometimes overbearing but always spirited group of students.

English teacher Faye Takushi remembers meeting students of the class when they were at the elementary campus. “They were a highly relational group of students who enjoyed working with each other,” Takushi said. “While their high level of energy often drove teachers crazy in their younger years, a few of us recognized the potential their energy offered. They’ve blossomed beautifully since.”

Enter Spirit Week, one of HBA’s most anticipated annual traditions, in which classes compete in numerous games and events for the coveted Mana Cup. Immediately upon the Class of 2018’s entrance into seventh grade, the first year they got to participate in Spirit Week, the Mana Cup seemed like the perfect match for them. What other class would be better suited to the fiery electricity Spirit Week demands?

So the Class of 2018 began an epic, six-year-long rollercoaster journey of elation and despair, culminating in a triumph in their senior year, a long-awaited win by a class that perhaps wanted it like no other.

 

The Class of 2018’s Spirit Week placings since seventh grade. Note the repeated second place rankings in their sophomore and junior years as they tried to overtake the senior classes of 2016 and 2017 for the win. Their second place finish in their junior year was especially painful because they lost by only 6 points.

Inspiration

 

In Spirit Week 2014, the sophomore (Class of 2016) won the Mana Cup, showing the rest of the school that seniority did not necessarily guarantee success. Here, they perform their pepper squad routine, which parodied the backstory of their mascot—Bowser. The Class of 2018 were eighth graders at the time.

Each year, the Student Council models the Spirit Week festivities around one unified theme from which each class chooses a subgenre/character to explore. Back in 2014, the theme was Misunderstood Monsters, so the sophomore class chose the Mario video game franchise’s villain—a diabolical fire-breathing tortoise named Bowser—as their mascot. Almost everyone expected the seniors to win as usual, and for most of the week, it seemed as if expectation would become reality as the seniors remained at the top of the daily standings.

In fact, that year’s junior class president, Jaryd Sugihara (’15), said he “didn’t think anyone expected the sophomores to come back as strongly as they did.” But to everyone’s surprise, the sophomores managed to pull off an impressive last-minute resurgence, dominating the extremely competitive Pepper Squad, Mascot, and All-School Cheer categories to establish an overall score of 305, edging out the senior class’s overall score of 278.

So while upperclassmen have a heavy advantage due to their experience, the sophomore class’s win in 2014 proved both to the school and to the Class of 2018 in particular that seniority could be trumped by willpower and spirit. Current senior Class of 2018 class council social chair Jalen Sur particularly remembers being “totally inspired” by the come-from-behind win, as it showed him that despite expectation and the norm, anything was possible.

Check out some of the Eagle Eye’s breaking-news reporting from this momentous win.


Humble Beginnings

 

Although the Class of 2018 began their Spirit Week journey in 2013 near the end of the pack, they enjoyed the distinction of never ending up in last place overall. Here, Class of 2018’s Davin Rausch is hoisted aloft by classmates Cameron Wong and Matthew Butay during their eighth grade Spirit Week.

For middle schoolers, Spirit Week can come as a culture shock, especially when the hectic preparations involved with costumes, banner, cheers, mascot, and pepper squad are compared with the calm spirit festivities held at the elementary school. (In order to help ease the seventh grade into Spirit Week this year, the seventh grade leadership chose to forgo participating in the pepper squad.)

However, the class does enjoy the rare distinction of never placing last overall, as they overtook the freshman class during both years of middle school.

Thus, middle school grades usually do not score very high in relation to the high school classes. Not surprisingly, the Class of 2018 placed fifth and fourth in their seventh and eighth grades, respectively. However, the class does enjoy the rare distinction of never placing last overall, as they overtook the freshman class during both years of middle school.

During their freshman year, they faced stiff competition from the upperclassmen, who deftly managed to prevent any last-minute comebacks reminiscent of the Class of 2016’s surprise sophomore win. In spite of their efforts, they placed fourth overall behind the sophomores, juniors, and seniors. It would not be until their sophomore year that they truly began to capitalize on their Spirit Week potential.

(Below) The class of 2018 competes in various Spirit Week competitions from 2013-2015. They chose King Kong as their eighth grade mascot, and Hansel and Gretel in their freshman year.


Hope

A compilation of highlights from the last day of Spirit Week 2016. While the Class of 2016 remained on top, the Class of 2018 shattered many expectations by coming in a close second. 

By sophomore year, Sur and his classmates were ready to show the rest of the high school what they were capable of. “We began Spirit Week with the determination to improve upon our freshman performance, but mostly not to suck,” Sur said.

And improve they did. While the week started off normally with the seniors leading in the rankings, the competition would soon take an unexpected turn. By midweek, the Class of 2018 had leaped into contention for first place, eventually pulling ahead of the seniors to establish a firm lead with an incredible pepper squad performance.

Inspired by their freshman year theater class production of the Broadway musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and a recent school trip in which they watched Matilda: The Musical on Broadway, the class council turned their Pepper Squad into a musical, enlisting the voices of various classmates as they parodied songs from Grease and Annie in their unique retelling of Honey Nut Cheerios mascot Buzz the Bee’s backstory. Their performance was a massive hit, with nearly every judge rating 2018’s as his or her favorite.

Class council Vice President Blythe Yoshikane noted the significance of their Pepper Squad success. “I think it’s an intriguing coincidence that we nearly beat the Class of 2016 during our sophomore year, as they were known for dominating Spirit Week as tenth graders.”

I think it’s an intriguing coincidence that we nearly beat the Class of 2016 during our sophomore year, as they were known for dominating Spirit Week as tenth graders.

Unfortunately for Yoshikane and her classmates, the Class of 2016 recovered their lead during the Platform Jam (in which the Class of 2018 has historically performed poorly) to seize the Mana Cup for the second time. However, the Class of 2018 still ended Spirit Week that year filled with hope for a potential win the following year, having proved that they possessed the spirit and willpower to win despite their disadvantage in experience.

(Below) The Class of 2018 in Spirit Week 2016. This year, they chose the Honey Nut Cheerio franchise’s Burt the Bee as their mascot.


Heartbreak

 

A compilation of Spirit Week 2017’s Pepper Squad event. The Class of 2018’s routine centered around the characters of the 1996 film Space Jam. Both the Class of 2017 and 2018 would remain in contention for the Mana Cup throughout most of the week. (Class of 2018’s Pepper Squad begins at 6:35.)

Coming into their fifth Spirit Week, the Class of 2018 (as juniors) had high expectations as they hoped to finally clinch the coveted Mana Cup. “As a class, we were very hopeful because of how close we were to winning during sophomore year,” Yoshikane remembered. “We thought the odds were in our favor our junior year as we had handily defeated the Class of 2017 during our sophomore year.”

However, the senior Class of 2017 proved to be much harder competition than expected, and for the whole week, both classes were locked in close contention for the top prize. After trading first and second place in all the major categories, the rankings remained a toss-up as the two grades were separated by only a few points. The winner would be decided by the All-School Cheer—the very last event of the competition.

Both classes prepared vigorously for their final push for first place with many practices before school, at homeroom, and during lunch. At last, Friday afternoon arrived, and, modeling their cheer around Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” the Class of 2018 gave what many in the class believed to be the winning performance. However, the scores were kept secret until Friday night’s Homecoming game, when the final standings are traditionally announced.

The atmosphere was tense as students stuffed into the gymnasium for the homecoming game, with many distracted from the basketball game by the impatient grumblings of the juniors and seniors as they waited for the scores. Finally, the air grew suddenly quiet at halftime as Student Council President Joyy Young picked up the microphone to announce the results. One side of the room immediately thundered with cheers at the news while the other was left to dejectedly file out of the gym. Sadly for the Class of 2018, they were the ones who found themselves outside, a mere six points away from first place.

Sadly for the Class of 2018, they were the ones who found themselves outside, a mere six points away from first place.

Naturally, there was much sadness and some bitterness among the grade at the results. Yoshikane attributed this discontent to a unique combination of two factors. “We weren’t expecting to lose this year and get second place two times in a row, coupled with the fact that we lost by only six measly points. It was definitely extremely disappointing to me and the entire class,” she explained. Come Spirit Week 2018, their last chance to win the Mana Cup, could they rally for the win?

(Below) The Class of 2018 in Spirit Week 2017. They are led by class mascots Sur and Yoshikane at each assembly, who dressed up as Bugs and Lola Bunny from Space Jam.


Redemption

 

Highlights from Spirit Week 2018. Although the competition remained close for much of the week, 2018 managed to pull ahead with astounding performances in every major category.

As the Class of 2018 approached their final year at Spirit Week, there were two opposing camps within the grade: the optimists, who were ready to give it all; and the cynics, who would rather the class abandon the tedious preparations for the “corrupt and rigged” institution of Spirit Week. Fortunately, the class council managed to rally their classmates for one last push to  claim the Mana Cup. Working tirelessly throughout the few months before Spirit Week, the class council harnessed their last five years of experience to polish each category to perfection.

Thus, the Class of 2018 began their final Spirit Week with renewed vigor, scoring 100% participation in each day’s costume theme and intensely attacking the daily competitions. By midweek, some began to worry, as the sophomores (the Class of 2020) had overtaken them after the Platform Jam event. But senior class council corresponding secretary Joshua Fujita was unfazed. “I wasn’t really worried when the sophomores were beating us, because we knew that we were giving it everything we had… It’s our last year, and we really wanted to take the win,” he said.

Friday saw the juniors replace the sophomores for second place and make an attempt at seizing first place, and for a moment, it seemed as if the Class of 2018 might be doomed to never win the Mana Cup. But in the end, after the scores were compiled, their hopes and dreams were finally fulfilled, as heartbreak found redemption.

The scene in the gym as the results were announced was chaotic and joyful as the whole class erupted in catharsis and elation. Fujita remembers the emotions flooding his mind as the whole class stormed the court to rally around their Mana Cup. “Upon their announcement, the feeling was extremely amazing. You know that feeling when you’ve worked on something for months and it suddenly comes to fruition. That’s how it felt,” he said.

In the end, the Class of 2018 finished in first with a comfortable margin of 32 points. They managed to sweep each of the major categories—All School Cheer, Mascot, Banner, and Pepper Squad— a testament to all the hard work they devoted to their last Spirit Week.

(Below) The Class of 2018 chose Scar from The Lion King as their mascot, modeling their cheers and costumes around themes featured in the movie. For their Pepper Squad, they integrated aspects from both the Lion King musical and Spirit Weeks past in a unique retelling of Scar’s origins that was both satirical and uplifting.


The People That Make It Happen

 

The senior class council poses with the coveted Mana Cup. (Clockwise from top left) Jalen Sur, Social Chair; Anika Keuning, president; Ally Wada, treasurer; Joshua Fujita, corresponding secretary, Katelyn Nakagawa, social chair; Anika Chang, recording secretary; Blythe Yoshikane, vice president; Kayla Wong, social chair.

While many only witness the one week of frenetic action, the class council’s Spirit Week preparations begin months before the actual event. However, the class council is rarely recognized for all the work they do for the grade. Yoshikane wanted to take a moment to thank the rest of her council for all the countless meetings, last-minute Walmart runs, and late nights. “Working together for the last four years on Spirit Week has tested a lot of our friendships and relationships,” Yoshikane gushed. “But no matter how cliché it sounds, I really feel that it brought us together both as a council and as friends. I’m really proud of each and every one of my fellow council members; we really pulled through in the end.”

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