Pep rally a huge hit, display of spirit returns after long absence

Seniors are shown during the Niskayuna High School pep rally on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)Seniors are shown during the Niskayuna High School pep rally on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

By Kate Bunster
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — It was a great day to be a warrior when Niskayuna High School gathered in the school gym to partake in an event that hasn’t happened (though you would have never guessed it) in over a decade: a pep rally.

The 45-minute rally Oct. 15 served as the kickoff event before homecoming weekend and included announcing the varsity athletes, a hype-song performance by the school band, a dodgeball competition and a pie-eating contest.

The pep rally began at 2 p.m., when students were welcomed by Niskayuna High School gym teacher and varsity football coach John Furey. First to be announced was the varsity cheerleading team, which then formed two lines for the rest of the athletes to run through as they cheered them on. This included the golf, swimming and diving, soccer, hockey, volleyball, crew, tennis, cross country and finally the Niskayuna football team (which drew the loudest applause).

After a pump-up routine and “Hey all you Nisky fans” was performed by the cheer team, 10 students and 10 faculty members lined up on opposite sides of the gym to participate in a dodgeball competition. The students defeated the teachers, possibly incurring some extra homework assignments in the upcoming weeks.

The most entertaining and possibly most unconventional event at the pep rally was the pie eating contest.

“If you feel like you are going to upchuck, do it on the plastic underneath you,” said Furey. The winner was the only female participant, Natalia Anapolis who was cheered on by classmates as she chowed down on the pie.

According to Furey, the event was made possible by Niskayuna’s youth-led program, The Warrior Project, where student athletes serve as role models for other students. Furey has been at Niskayuna High School for 21 years and said he has seen only one pep rally in his career there.

Last year, the Warrior Project joined hands with the pep club and made the pep rally happen.

“It’s hard to get help,” said Linda Borges, co-adviser of the Pep Club. “But this year the kids really wanted it.”

According to Furey, who is also the adviser of the Warrior Project, the club was hoping to have a pep rally last spring, but things happened too quickly. They came in with a clear goal this year.

“We said, ‘OK, we’re going to get this done.’ ”

And they did. The students of the Warrior Project were involved with the pep rally planning from the beginning stages up until the day of the big event. Furey hopes that this event will develop school spirit and continue as a tradition throughout the years. To judge by the overall spirit that was seen at the pep rally, this seems likely.

Each grade level had a cheer off with the “I Believe” cheer. The seniors won and their prize was getting into the next day’s homecoming game for free.

“Everyone had a lot of school spirit and was really into the pep rally, which before hand I was nervous wasn’t going to happen,” student Hannah Munro said. “The teams cooperated really well and [MCs Jake Shephard and Kyle Pick] did a really good job. We got nothing but positive feedback.”

“This is exciting as it was a student initiative to increase school spirit and participation from students and faculty,” said Kristin Sweeter, grant manager at the Niskayuna Community Action Program, a support group for the Warrior Project and their mission. “The Warrior Project students took the ball and ran with it.”
Given how successful the pep rally was, it’s surprising that something like this hasn’t been done sooner.

“There hasn’t been that one group to pull everything together — this group was the one that did it. They put positive things out there to develop pride in the school,” said Furey.