by Lisa Tome
When the Rising Sun High School football season ends in a few weeks, Amanda McCloud will hang up her suit for the last time.
McCloud, a 16-year-old senior at the school, has served as the school's mascot, the Rising Sun Tiger, for four years.
"When I was a little kid, we'd go to baseball games or the Ravens and I'd see the mascot goofing off. When they were recruiting (for a new Tiger), I was the only one who wanted to do it," said McCloud.
Putting on the suit means that McCloud's identity changes.
She said that during her first year as the mascot, no one knew she was in the suit and under the head. Now, that has changed. "Pretty much everyone knows it's me," she said.
The mascot uniform is thick, hot, and big. "It's like wearing a rug. There's a fan in the head. It didn't work very well. Dad fixed it up and made it better," she said.
The outfit also needs regular maintenance. The head needs to be touched up when the paint chips and holes in the costume have to be mended.
They are a number of drawbacks to the job, but McCloud said the fun of it outweighs the negatives.
"In the first game of the season, it's awful. I can't make it through the whole game (in costume). In the last week of October, it's more comfortable," said McCloud. She has never had an incident where the heat overcame her, but there have been close calls. She said that once, during a game, she lost five pounds of water weight due to the combination of heat and the suit.
The job as mascot requires that she attend cheerleading practice twice a week. She will also accompany the squad to the five or six competitions in which they will compete.
This football season also had her appearing more. She has attended both home and away games. She also does the dances with the marching band members. A lot of her mascot moves are improvised.
"For football games, I get the crowd pepped up. I tried to do basketball games, but the gym is too crowded," she said. "I've really enjoyed it. When I was in eighth grade and they had that first meeting, I am glad I went to that."
She brought more than a decade of dance experience to the mascot position. She has also learned a lot along the way. "I learned what it was like to be a cheerleader," she said. She also said being the mascot has helped her meet people she may not have met if she wasn't on the field.
Since she's put the suit on for four years, she's learned some tricks of the trade. She uses black electric tape to secure the tiger feet on her feet. She has also gotten used to wearing the tiger paws, which are gloves with a thumb and three fingers.
She has a really big show coming up. On October 30, McCloud will perform at the school's Homecoming Pep Rally celebration. She is gearing up for that.
McCloud, the daughter of Charlie McCloud of Rising Sun and Karen McCloud of Delaware, does much more than don the tiger stripes. She's an honor student with a grade point average greater than 4.0. She volunteers at the circulation desk at the Newark Library. She has also volunteered with her church, Bethel Lutheran of North East. She's a cheerleader and has performed with and studied at Cecil Dancenter for 14 years.
McCloud is college bound where she will study nursing. She said if the college she attends is in need of a mascot, she may try to fill the bill.