Teal and black selected as new colors for combined Arkport-Canaseraga athletics

ARKPORT — If student enthusiasm was a reason for selecting Arkport-Canaseraga team colors and a mascot, the fledgling athletic program hit a home run last week.

The newest area public school sports teams capped a month of student voting with shouted approvals that will be remembered as long as kids yell “Go, A-C,” the de facto cheer that seems to have been unofficially adopted for the program.

The shared sports teams have been cooperating for at least the past five years.

The simple reason: necessity.

Enrollments at the schools have been declining for a decade along with the eroding Southern Tier population. At first, the two schools only shared student athletes. But as the number of sports participants shrank and filling the modified, junior varsity and varsity teams became more challenging, residents of each school district looked more carefully at potential solutions.

After Alfred-Almond, Arkport and Canaseraga voters defeated potential merger three years ago, residents of the two institutions began discussing and then advocating union of Arkport and Canaseraga.

The boards last summer officially agreed to share athletic programs replete with coaches, transportation and athletes from both schools. Last January boards liked what had happened and agreed to support the dual athletics at least until somebody balked, to use another baseball idiom.

Board members created an athletic advisory council to sweat details, including team colors and mascot. Council members understood that student selection of colors and a mascot were building blocks for success.

The initial mascot candidates ranged from aardvark to zebra, the colors from hues across the spectrum. Borrowing from the National College Athletic Association, advisory council members created brackets and called the plan “March Madness” that pitted different animals and colors against each other.

Students participated eagerly in the voting with 90 percent involvement until in early April wolves and nighthawks plus teal and black and green and blue became finalists. Students in both schools and all grades debated and electioneered with posters and discussions.

Stephanie Randall’s Arkport third graders were examples of the lively discussions. “Every student eagerly participated in debates and voting. Everybody has ownership in the final decisions,” she said.

Last Friday was announcement day. Students bubbled excitedly as an outsized screen with “Announcement Day April 20” lowered a few minutes before 2 p.m.

A total of 660 sat on chairs in the Arkport Central Performing Arts Center. First graders plus kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students occupied the floor in front of the Center podium. Teachers plus principals Caitilin Dewey from Arkport and Shannon Gilbert from Canaseraga quietly urged students to move closer as Arkport Superintendent Jesse Harper and Canaseraga Superintendent Chad Groff prepared to preside over a spirited and predictably deafening ceremony.

The excited chatter of students quickly subdued as Harper strode to the podium to lead students and faculty in the pledge of allegiance. He noted with pride that five rounds of voting had averaged more than 90 percent student participation.

Groff called the response “amazing.” Drum rolls preceded the announcement about the student-selected colors.

Student shrieks drenched the drum roll with the proclamation about teal and black, the new colors of the Arkport-Canaseraga athletic program.

The roar that surrounding naming the wolves as mascot was louder. If somebody driving near Arkport Central at 2:05 p.m. Friday told you they heard a bellow and saw school windows vibrate, believe them. The Tribune reporter who sat among the students when the wolves were announced and Groff turned his back to the audience to reveal the bold message on his t-shirt, “RUN WITH THE WOLVES, swears the thunderous student yelling increased about 100 decibels above the sound of the eight engines of a B-52 taking off.

Groff said before the ceremony, when people could converse at normal tones, that the schools would next week submit requests for proposals from uniform manufacturers and expected to review options in late May or June. The hope, he said, is that uniforms for fall sports will arrive in mid-August.

Each student from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade will receive a teal-and-black shirt, Harper was overheard telling excited students as they exited the Performing Arts Center.

With clear and precise instructions, students respectfully left the building for school buses and trips home.

At 2:23, the center that had been crowded with screaming students, faculty and staff was empty and quiet.

“Remarkable decorum, given the excitement of a few minutes ago,” the Tribune reporter commented to Harper. The superintendent said with modest pride “Those are our kids.”

And that is arguably a text-book lesson on how long-lasting school esprit de corps is created.