BY ELENA LUKE
As the Rugby team prepared to travel to Colorado for their first-ever National Championship competition, the Athletic Department and Exc!te collaborated to put together a fun-filled, Franciscan University spirit week complete with pep rally, rugby sendoff parade, bonfire, live streaming of the games and much more.
The purpose behind the events was to honor not only the nationally acclaimed rugby team, but also the several other athletes and intercollegiate sports teams that have received special honors representing the school throughout the year.
"We combined our (Spring Fling) events with the Athletic Department Events to promote school spirit on campus," said Exc!te board member Bri Posch at the Pep Rally on Wednesday night. Judging by the sea of green and gold that filled the Finnegan Fieldhouse bleachers, it was clear that their efforts were successful. The pep rally began at 8 p.m. with students filing into the gym to receive inflatable "clappers" emblazoned with the school's name and emblem, glow sticks, and bags of confetti, then proceeded to "make some noise" as the announcer called out Franciscan athletic accomplishments and the Baron mascot tossed t-shirts into the crowd.
Next, the Baronettes Dance Team performed an opening number as a precursor to the honoring of each of the student-athletes and teams that had received awards for top ECAC and AMCC accomplishments in the 2011-2012 season. As they came forward to tumultuous applause from the stands, the athletes being honored were invited to participate in several mock competitions—including wheel barrow races, an egg toss, and tug-o-war—against randomly-selected members of the rest of the student body.
Finally, the part of the night everyone had been waiting for: The lights dimmed and students waved glow sticks in the air while the announcer called the rugby team to the middle of the gym floor and recited each player's name as a spotlight flashed down the lineup. Students showed their support by tossing confetti and cheering wildly, but the moment that truly characterized the school's vision for athletics was when the rugby team chaplain, the Rev. Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R., took the microphone to pray a blessing on the team before their departure. Every person in the stands moved down to the floor to kneel amongst the athletes, facing the Franciscan crucifix. It was a powerful moment that demonstrated who Franciscan athletes represent on the field and why the Catholic faith is an integral part of Baron Sports.
But the fun did not end there; after attending noon mass on Thursday, the rugby team was sent off to the airport amidst a parade of fans waving "clappers" from the night before and generally showing support for the athletes as they headed to the National Championship. That night, more students turned out for a school-sponsored bonfire on the hill in anticipation of the weekend's games.
The culmination of a week of spirit-filled fun was the live streaming of both National Championship games at Damon's Bar and Grill on Saturday and the Finnegan Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon. A large portion of the student body turned out to watch the rugby players represent the school and take third place in the nation. Overall, it was an exciting end to a memorable week for both the athletics program and Franciscan University as a whole.