BATH, Maine — The Morse Shipbuilders and the Bath High School Alumni Association have a winner.
Just moments after today’s 3 p.m. voting deadline, voter extraordinaire Troy Cunningham confirmed from his Florida home that Morse had won the Region I championship in the USA Today competition for top mascot. The victory sends Morse into the national championships, which begin on Friday.
Morse won with 1,092,633 votes — about 10,000 more than the second-place Kingswood Oxford Wyverns in what amounted to a two-way race for the Region I championship. Cunningham, who helped coordinate a worldwide voting effort among Morse alums, was thrilled.
“I just got the numbers,” said Cunningham, who voted thousands of times on the usatodayhss.com website. “To me it feels like I was back in the 80s, watching the basketball games. It’s that sort of adrenaline.”
Kingswood Oxford is an elite private school of 500 students in West Hartford, Conn. Morse had 1,087,050 votes in the regional round that began on March 6 and ended at 3 p.m. today. Morse, a public high school, has 640 students.
The six regional winners compete from March 15-25 for the chance to be named the best high school sports mascot in America. The national winner will receive $2,000 for its athletic department. Second place will be awarded $1,000, third $500, fourth $250 and fifth $100.
“I’m very happy right now,” Cunningham said, “but it’s not about me. It’s about how a whole school can keep tradition and hold fast.”
Cunningham, a Realtor who lives in Florida, credited people like Kristen Waterman Basil, Kelly McKellar, Kathy Mitchell, Monica Hynes, Brian Hatch and Hazel Meserve for their huge voting efforts. Hundreds of other Morse alumni around the world did the same, Cunningham said, and Facebook was a major voting tool.
“It’s been persistence, persistence, persistence — we spread the word and keep going,” he said. “We’re talking about our school, our heritage, our tradition. You pass it onto a couple of people, and they pass it on.”
Linda Koehling of West Bath, a 1966 Morse grad, was in on the fun.
“I’d like to see them win — I certainly would,” Koehling said earlier this week. “That would be cool. Now I’ve got to go vote some more!”
Morse, which won the Maine championship, was pitted against Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey in the Region I contest.
The Shipbuilder mascot, of course, depicts the shipbuilding heritage in Bath. The Bath High School Alumni Association is the oldest high school alumni association in the country.
A wyvern is a legendary winged creature with a dragon’s head, reptilian body, two legs — sometimes none — and a barbed tail. Depending on the cultural specifications, wyverns can breathe fire, or possess a venomous bite, or possess neither or both of these.