The Bend-La Pine School Board will soon be making some pivotal decisions about the identity of the new high school in southeast Bend. The school’s name will likely be a contentious discussion, as it was for North Star Elementary last winter.
The board will also select the mascot, a school identity that matters quite a bit to the high school’s future students and staff as well as the southeast Bend community. A strong mascot can strengthen school spirit. A weak, generic one can make the school feel anonymous.
Although I have no connection to this school, beyond being The Bulletin’s education reporter — I don’t live near southeast Bend, I don’t have kids, and I never attended Bend-La Pine schools — I’m humbly suggesting that the school board vote to make the new high school’s mascot a proud, majestic symbol of Central Oregon: the rock chuck.
The Fighting Rock Chucks would be an ideal mascot for the new high school because it has local ties and it would be one-of-a-kind in a sea of blah school nicknames.
Some of the greatest sports mascots have connections to their communities. The dearly departed Seattle SuperSonics are a great example, as it was an homage to nearby aerospace giant Boeing’s supersonic jets. Although Vikings are a common mascot — my high school alma mater in the suburbs of Tacoma, Washington, used it — it’s effective for the Minnesota Vikings, as it pays tribute to the region’s Scandinavian heritage.
Some of Central Oregon’s finest high school mascots also have local ties. The white buffalo, an animal considered sacred for many Native American tribes, is a good match for Madras High School, which draws many of its students from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
With the Crooked River Roundup rodeo next door, Crook County High School being the cowboys/cowgirls is a no-brainer. And of course, Bend High School’s Lava Bear mascot — named after malnourished black bears mistaken for a separate species in the High Desert — is brilliant.
Rock chucks, or yellow-bellied marmots (although that’s not nearly as catchy), are a perfect choice for a region-specific mascot. The adorable mammals lounge on the Old Mill District’s rocks. The Tetherow Resort calls them its “unofficial mascot.”
The Fighting Rock Chucks would also be a much better localized mascot than using a predominant industry in Bend, such as Tillamook High School, whose teams are the Cheesemakers. Logging isn’t much of a force in Bend anymore, plus five other high schools in Oregon are already the Loggers. The Skiers is an awkward name. And something tells me education officials wouldn’t be thrilled with teams filled with underage teens having a beer-themed mascot.
But most importantly, the Fighting Rock Chucks would stand out amongst overused mascots throughout Oregon. According to the Oregon School Activities Association, which governs high school sports and activities statewide, nearly 50 different Oregon high schools have some sort of cat mascot, the most popular being tigers and cougars.
Eighteen Oregon high schools have the eagle as their mascot, the most popular choice.
There’s not a single high school in Oregon that uses the rock chuck as its mascot. The southeast Bend high school could instantly become well-known statewide, not unlike the Lava Bears or the Pendleton High School Buckaroos.
Calling them the Falcons or Warriors will just make the new school blend into the crowd.
I understand that the Fighting Rock Chuck is an unconventional mascot. Rock chucks are more cuddly than intimidating — but so are ducks and huskies, and last time I checked, the University of Oregon and University of Washington’s sports teams are quite successful.
So school board members and the southeast Bend community, if you reject the Fighting Rock Chucks, at least promise me this: Pick something quirky. Choose some fun, standout school colors to go along with it — I’d suggest the very ’90s combination of teal and purple. And at the very least, please don’t use Native Americans as a mascot.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854,email@example.com