Morse High Shipbuilders lose regional title in USA Today mascot contest by 7,000 votes

Posted March 22, 2013, at 6:22 a.m.

BATH, Maine — When you’re talking more than 1.5 million votes, 7,000 isn’t a lot. But that was the margin of victory Wednesday for the Kingswood Oxford Wyverns, who edged the Morse Shipbuilders to win the Region I title in the USA Today competition for top mascot.

The final tally: Kingswood Oxford 1,590,384 to Morse 1,583,037.

Just six days after they thought they had won the right to compete in the Nationals — only to have the context extended because of a website snafu — backers of the Shipbuilders learned at 3 p.m. Wednesday that they finished second. Kingswood-Oxford, a private school in West Hartford, Conn., faces five other schools for the national championship beginning Thursday.

Florida resident Troy Cunningham, a 1987 Morse High School graduate and spokesman for the Bath High School Alumni Association, expressed pride in the Morse effort.

Cunningham said he has a list three pages long, containing Morse alumni worldwide who had voted — time and time again.

“I keep getting instant messages — ‘bummed, bummed, bummed,’” Cunningham said as soon as he knew the results. “But we did give them a run for their money. Some alumni from as far back as 1953 were voting.”

The contest was scheduled to end at 3 p.m. last Thursday, but the website became jammed due to the heavy voting.

At the time, Morse led with 1,092,633 votes — about 10,000 more than Kingswood in what had amounted to a two-way race for the Region I championship.

“That was tough,” Derek Samson, director of content for USA Today High School Sports said Wednesday. “We’re definitely sorry that happened last week. I can pretty much say that the Shipbuilders will be back again next year.”

The national winner will receive $2,000 for its athletic department. Second place will be awarded $1,000, with $500 for third, $250 for fourth and $100 for fifth.

“It wasn’t the money,” Cunningham said. “We have strong, strong alumni, and in ten-fold we could get our alumni to donate that amount of money.”

The Shipbuilder mascot depicts the shipbuilding heritage in Bath. A wyvern is a legendary winged creature with a dragon’s head, reptilian body, two legs — sometimes none — and a barbed tail.

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