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Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Glass blowing? The German Club? The Mob?

Wait, that would be the Miller Mob - the 400-member school spirit club - they're OK.

And Springfield High School must have the best pep rally and homecoming this side of the University of Missouri. That's where pep rallies and homecomings began, you know - 97 years ago, if you believe what you read on the Internet, the NCAA and Trivial Pursuit.

Thursday was Springfield High's fourth annual "Best of SHS Pep Rally," a four-hour extravaganza that began in the Silke Field parking lot with food booths, school clubs and face painting, and then moved to the stadium for songs, skits, cheers, performances by the marching band, the school's first-ever mariachi band, the introduction of the homecoming court, a rousing pep talk by football coach Skip Raish - "Whose house is this?!" - and the grand finale, a 10-minute, $2,200 fireworks display.

"I wanted to have an old- fashioned pep rally," explained athletics secretary Jody Barnhart, who three years ago pitched her idea of taking Springfield High's school spirit to another level. The event always happens the day before the big homecoming game, and this year, it's about as big as it ever gets, as the Millers' arch rival, undefeated and second-ranked Thurston High School, comes calling tonight.

"We had a huge bonfire," Raish said, recalling pep rallies at Centralia (Wash.) High School, where he played football in the early 1960s, "but nothing like this."

Homecoming and pep rallies are a uniquely American tradition, and usually take place in October.

According to the Web site for the Mizzou Alumni Association, the tradition began at the University of Missouri in 1911 when the school's athletic director had a vision to spruce up the arch rivalry with the University of Kansas by inviting alumni to come home for the game.

The event included a spirit rally and parade, and became the model of homecoming celebrations at colleges across the nation, eventually spreading to high schools. (The University of Illinois and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, however, lay claim to having "homecoming" games and celebrations before 1911.)

These days, though, homecoming celebrations and pep rallies like the one Barnhart spearheaded for the Millers in 2005 are rare.

In fact, the term "pep rally" might even be considered a tad dorky at some large high schools.

At South Eugene High School, they're now called "sports assemblies," secretary Brenda Down said. Attendance is optional, and it shows when "certainly not the whole school" is in the gym bleachers.

But at Springfield High, hundreds of students on Thursday meandered through the Silke Field parking lot, braving temperatures that dipped into the 40s after the sun went down. The event has grown every year, said Diana Jordan, the school's office manager.

"It's a great community event," said Jordan, whose son and daughter graduated from Springfield.

Son Josh, class of 1999, is now a science teacher at Springfield High. "The kids love this," Diana Jordan said. "It's like nothing else in this area."

Junior Bailee Barrager, a cheerleader and the junior princess in the homecoming court, said the event is "a time for the school to come together and get pumped up for the game." Barrager and the other 1,400-plus students at Springfield High have known nothing else during their high school days when it comes to pep rallies. The current seniors were freshman when Barnhart's idea was launched.

Diana Jordan and others at the school often joke that they need to make a T-shirt for Barnhart that says, "I have an idea ..."

"Because when Jody says she has an idea, it's goin'," said Jordan, as she handed out blue Mardi Gras-like "Miller beads."

Barnhart, also the adviser of the Miller Mob, actually is a 1980 graduate of Thurston, as is her husband, Troy Barnhart, who played football for the Colts. The couple's two children graduated from Thurston, and Jody and Troy coach track at Thurston.

But Jody Barnhart's allegiance will be with the Millers tonight.

"It just shows the amount of community support we have, and that people really care about us," said Matt Lutz, a senior offensive tackle on the Millers' 4-2 football team. "It's not about the 1,400 kids who go here, it's about our whole community."


Churchill High School: Oct. 24 - 11 a.m. pep assembly in main gym; 7 p.m. game against Thurston; Oct. 25 - 8:30 p.m. homecoming dance.

Marist High School: Today - 8:30 p.m. dance.

North Eugene High School: Oct. 31 - 10:26 a.m. assembly in main gym; 7 p.m. game against Churchill; Nov. 1 - 8 p.m. homecoming dance.

Sheldon High School: Oct. 24 - 10:17 a.m. pep rally in main gym; 7 p.m. game against South Eugene; Oct. 25 - 8:30 p.m. homecoming dance.

South Eugene High School: Oct. 17 - 10:15 a.m. sports assembly in main gym; 7 p.m. game against South Medford, followed by 9 p.m. homecoming dance.

Thurston High School: Oct. 17 - 11:45 a.m. pep assembly in main gym; 7 p.m. game against North Eugene; Oct. 18 - 8 p.m. homecoming dance.

Willamette High School: Oct. 24 - 11 a.m. pep assembly in main gym; 7 p.m. game against North Eugene; Oct. 25 - 8 p.m. homecoming dance.
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Title Annotation:Education
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 10, 2008
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