Behind the Mask

Jena Moreno, Staff Writer

Sweat rolls down the side of her cheek as she stares out at the cheerful crowd in front of her. Alongside side her is her fellow cheerleaders, bouncing up and down. A smile spreads along her face behind the tiger mask she wears. It is another year on the field as the mascot for junior, Kristyn Swonke. Behind the mask that makes the team complete she goes out once again to be the face of the school and cheer on the games.

“My favorite part of being the mascot is being somewhat of the role model of the school because people are always watching the tiger at the games,” Swonke said. “I love being the one every kid runs up to and wants a hug from.”

Swonke has a history of mascoting since middle school starting off as a cheerleader then later on switching to mascoting after realizing that it is what she wanted.

“Cheerleading never felt like me, I could never express myself,” Swonke said. “I had to fit this standard, but I’m not like that, I want to be myself and be crazy. My friend Kailee, who’s recently passed, used to be the mascot at Schindewolf and she encouraged me, since I was a cheerleader, to become mascot because she knew cheering wasn’t for me.”

According to Swonke being mascot is not as easy as it may seem. Swonke must go out in the heat while wearing the mascot suit and still has perform her dances and cheers for the crowd.

“It’s at least 40 degrees hotter in the suit than it is outside that day,” Swonke said. “I did pass out once in middle school because of the heat.”

Though the mascot is usually perceived as cheerful and enthusiastic Swonke struggles with ADHD, anxiety, and depression and it isn’t always easy to deal with.

“I’ve always been picked on and bullied for having ADHD, but I never let it get in my way because that is something that I can’t change,” Swonke said. “Mascoting is a really great outlet for me because I get to express myself and do whatever I want without being told I’m being too annoying or too hyper.”

Struggling with these things does not stop Swonke from being positive and doing her best job as mascot.

“It’s always been an insecurity of mine because people would tell me that the reason I’m mascot is because I’m not pretty enough or good enough to be a cheerleader’” Swonke says. “Once I got passed that negativity I realized that mascoting is my passion and actually helped making my anxiety and depression better.”

Swonke is not the only mascot for Klein Collins, junior Shane Trevino takes on the role of the male mascot right alongside of Swonke.

“She always made mascoting look like so much fun, so I was like, hey! I want to be apart of that! So, I signed up to try out for mascot,” Trevino said. “The hardest part of being mascot is when the weather is really hot and brutal it just feels like a sauna and you’re sweating buckets.”

The team would not be complete without these two as mascot. Energizing and giving it all they have to entertain the crowd during the schools biggest and smallest football games.

“They’re really there to just help pump up the crowd and they do an awesome job at that,” coach Cole said. “They’re an extension of the cheer squad and they may not be out there tumbling with us but they’re the ones who really bring up the spirits and keep the energy high.”